SAGINAW (WJRT) - (08/06/18) - A former Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting three young men appeared in court Monday for a series of legal motions.
Robert DeLand Junior's attorney, Alan Crawford, was trying to get the cases dismissed using a variety of arguments.
"It's our position in this matter that the District Court judge abused their discretion in binding this matter over. And the reason that they abused their discretion is because we're dealing with an alleged victim in this matter who there's questions as to his memory of what occured on this particular night," Crawford said.
Circuit Court Judge Darnell Jackson denied Crawford's first motion to quash that specific charge.
There were a total of 14 motions between the defense and prosecution.
The Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office asked Judge Jackson to join the cases moving forward.
Police in Tittabawassee Township and Saginaw Township investigated DeLand's actions. The prosecutor decided to issues charges in four different cases, involving three young men.
One of the men was 21 when the alleged actions took place, the other two young men were teenagers.
"All considered collectively demonstrate a common single scheme or plan by the defendant to sexually assault young males," said Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Hoover. "All of these instances involve a certain level of trust in the defendant, based on him befriending his victims, and we have isolation, we have control, and we ultimately have the culmination of all of these with the sexual assaults that result."
Crawford argued combing the cases would not give DeLand a fair chance at trial. "A juror is going to automatically assume, 'well if they have all of these cases, there must be some truth behind it'."
Judge Jackson decided to combine two of the cases involving the teens. He cited common witnesses in the cases as one reason for combining them.
"The defendant allegedly used the occasion of Dennis' death to gain access to the victims," Jackson said.
Prosecutors said DeLand met the two teenager victims as a result of the death of a third teen, Michael Dennis.
The one teen was sentenced to community service and assigned to DeLand. The other teen came in contact with DeLand at Dennis' funeral service.
The combined case will begin after the trial is complete for the then-21-year-old's case. It's scheduled to begin Sept. 5.
A fourth case, involving one of the teenage victims, has been adjourned while a defense expert analyzes audio recordings.
Crawford also made motions related to concerns that DeLand was singled out for prosecution because of his religion and that one of the teen's involvement in an undercover operation was entrapment.
"If they're allowed to do this, what's going to be next? Now we're going to have 12 and 13-year-olds getting involved in CSC cases, putting themselves in danger," Crawford said.
Prosecutors argue DeLand had the chance to make the right decision.
"It was a truth seeking investigation and the fact that the defendant ultimately chose to take the wrong path is not the fault of law enforcement," Hoover said.