SAGINAW (WJRT) - (03/27/19) - Days after a jury acquitted Robert DeLand of two sex abuse charges the suspended Catholic priest decided not to risk another trial.
On Tuesday DeLand, 72, pleaded no contest to second degree criminal sexual conduct, providing an imitation controlled substance, and gross indecency between males. In return Saginaw County prosecutors agreed to drop charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor and second degree attempted criminal sexual conduct.
On March 21 a jury found him not guilty of second degree criminal sexual conduct and second degree attempted criminal sexual conduct.
The seven charges stem from cases involving three young men. One man was 21-years-old at the time, the other two were each age 17.
Wednesday afternoon prosecutors and the police agencies involved in the cases spoke to the media about the recent developments.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner said the plea deal started to take shape over the weekend and was finalized Monday afternoon. "You never know if it's going to go through until it's actually put on the record, so we remained ready to go to trial on Tuesday morning," he said.
DeLand did plead no contest to three charges.
The most serious offense, second degree criminal sexual conduct, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
However it will be up to Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge Darnell Jackson, who will be following Michigan Department of Corrections sentencing guidelines, to decide DeLand's exact sentence.
"While we don't know what the actual sentence will be until that time, it's, it's very likely going to be prison time," said Melissa Hoover, a Saginaw County assistant prosecutor.
Hoover said the plea deal came after a tough loss. "Certainly it was disappointing, but I respect the jury's verdict and I respect the jury process," she said.
Gaertner also addressed the not guilty verdicts. "We did not have corroborating evidence in the first trial. It was a traditional 'he said, he said' type of case. There was no electronic surveillance. We did not have tape recordings," he said.
That type of evidence did exist in the remaining cases. We heard some of it during the preliminary exam for a case involving the 21-year-old man last year.
"And when you say if I took advantage of you, I don't remember that, but I believe you because you don't lie," DeLand said in a recording played in court.
There were also recordings of conversations between DeLand and one of the 17-year-olds.
"The tapes, that's Robert DeLand talking. That's not somebody saying what he said, that's him saying exactly what he said. That's powerful evidence," Gaertner said.
DeLand will be sentenced on April 25.
The news conference also include representatives from the Saginaw Township Police Department, Tittabawassee Township Police Department, and the Michigan State Police who investigated the various DeLand cases.