SAGINAW (WJRT) - (03/18/19) - Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in the sex abuse case involving a former Catholic priest.
Robert DeLand is known by many as "Father Bob".
He's accused of sexual misconduct against three young men dating back to 2017.
Two of the young men were 17-years-old when the alleged incidents took place, the third man was 21-years-old.
During their preliminary exams we learned more about how they met DeLand. One of the teens came into contact with DeLand during the teen's court-ordered community service, the other said he was cornered at a friend's funeral, while the then-21-year-old says he met DeLand at a restaurant where the young man worked.
DeLand was arrested in February of 2018.
One day before jury selection was set to begin DeLand's attorney asked Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge Darnell Jackson for a changed of venue.
Alan Crawford said he doesn't believe the court will be able to seat a fair and impartial jury. "Everything that's happened on this case has been reported. It's our position that we wouldn't be able to seat a fair and impartial jury," he said.
Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Hoover disagreed, saying media coverage alone is not enough to move a trial.
"We haven't talked to any of the potential jurors, we haven't had the opportunity to ascertain whether there's any bias present, or how much news coverage they've actually witnessed of this case," Hoover said.
Judge Jackson decided to reserve judgement, ultimately choosing not to deny the motion nor grant it.
"Can they be fair and impartial? And I agree with Ms. Hoover, until we have had time to voir dire or question the jurors with regard to that, I believe the motion at this time is premature," Hon. Jackson said.
Last year DeLand agreed to plead no contest to the charges he faces, but Judge Jackson ultimately decided against accepting his plea.
DeLand then withdrew his no contest pleas and opted for trial.