Federal lawsuit lays out alleged sex crimes committed by Saginaw priest

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (3/13/2018) - A federal lawsuit filed by an unidentified teenage boy details sexual abuse alleged at the hands of the Rev. Robert DeLand.

The Rev. Robert DeLand

The lawsuit filed by the Fieger Law Firm on behalf of a 17-year-old boy from Tittabawassee Township claims the priest groped him. The boy was working undercover for police just before DeLand's arrest on Feb. 25.

Court documents say the boy was 16 when he met DeLand at a funeral for Michael Dennis in May 2017. The teen faced a juvenile conviction and DeLand later invited him to perform community service at St. Agnes Parish in Freeland, where DeLand has been pastor since 2011.

The court papers say 71-year-old DeLand engaged in a systematic pattern of grooming behavior, targeting the teen by gaining his trust with gifts and favors.

By the end of 2017, the lawsuit claims DeLand was calling or texting the teen at least 17 times a day.

The teen says he fled the priest's Mallard Cove condominium in Saginaw Township on Feb. 25 after the teen claims he was fondled and groped by the priest, which lead to DeLand's arrest.

The lawsuit lists four counts, including violation of the teen's civil rights and assault. It also accuses the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw and Bishop Joseph Cistone with gross negligence for failing to properly supervise DeLand and ignoring evidence of prior misconduct.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified financial award of at least $75,000.

The diocese declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

DeLand appeared in court on Monday, waiving his right to a preliiminary hearing in 21 days on the two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of gross indecency among males filed against him.

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