SAGINAW (WJRT) (4/25/2019) - The suspended Saginaw County Catholic priest known as "Father Bob" will spend two to 15 years in prison.
He also is permanently banned from conducting public ministry in the Catholic church and from presenting himself as a priest.
The Rev. Robert DeLand is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with males ages 17 and 21. The incidents allegedly took place in Tittabawassee Township and at his condominium on Mallard Cove in Saginaw Township.
He pleaded no contest last month to three charges: second-degree criminal sexual conduct, providing an imitation controlled substance and gross indecency between males. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but the court treats it as one at sentencing.
He made the plea days after a Saginaw County jury found him not guilty in two other cases. One of the cases involved the 17-year-old in today's sentencing, the other case involved a second 17-year-old male.
The most serious charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
The Most Rev. Walter A. Hurley, apostolic administrator for the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, issued a statement after the sentencing apologizing to the victims.
“Today’s sentencing of Robert (Father Bob) DeLand is a clear statement that all, including clergy, must be held accountable for actions that have injured others – especially when minors and the vulnerable are involved. We respect the criminal justice system that has brought this matter to this point of closure.
“On behalf of the diocese, I offer my apology to anyone who has been harmed by the actions of clergy or church personnel. These actions have caused immense pain to victims and their families. We are committed to ongoing collaboration with the civil authorities on these matters. Our focus on protecting children and young people remains strong. We will not rest in our efforts to ensure the safety of minors and all those entrusted to our care.
“I have confirmed with Robert DeLand that the restrictions placed upon him by the Diocese – forbidding him from presenting himself as a priest or exercising public ministry – will remain in place permanently.
“I ask anyone with reason to believe sexual abuse of a minor or the vulnerable has occurred to notify law enforcement immediately or call the Attorney General’s hotline at 844-324-3374.
“It is an understatement to say that these past months have been difficult times for victims and their families, for the Catholic community and for our whole community. We ask all the Faithful to pray for victims of abuse and their families, and all who have been hurt, disheartened or impacted in any way by these tragic circumstances.”