SAGINAW (WJRT) (3/21/2019) - A Saginaw County jury acquitted suspended Catholic priest Robert DeLand of all charges in the first of three trials planned in his sexual abuse case.
DeLand was found not guilty of criminal sexual conduct charges involving two males who were 17 when they accused him of sexual abuse in 2017.
He was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
However, DeLand still faces two more trials on sex charges involving males. They are scheduled to start later this month.
Just three days into the sexual abuse trial against a former Catholic priest in Saginaw, Robert Deland took the stand to present his side of the story.
The 72-year-old denied he had inappropriate sexual contact with two young men back in 2017.
"No it did not occur," DeLand said. "It would be the last thing on my mind at that moment because ... we were in such trauma."
DeLand also denied touching the second 17-year-old on the buttocks at Freeland High School during his time as a "Hallway Hero," which is a volunteer position at the school.
DeLand was the only witness the defense called. After hearing from DeLand, the prosecution called the two 17-year-olds back to the stand and they talked again about their memories of those days.
Prosecutors also called one of the teens' dads to testify as well.
Both the prosecution and defense wrapped up their cases Thursday morning and they were giving closing statements around midday. The jury was expected to begin deliberations Thursday afternoon.
After the verdict came, Interim Bishop Walter Hurley of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw released the following statement:
"The not guilty decision regarding Rev. Robert DeLand by the jury today brings to resolution one part of a long and difficult process for all involved. We await the results of the continuing legal process. My hope, that as the criminal court process continues to evolve, a sense of peace and healing for all will be the final result. Because these matters are ongoing, I will refrain from making any additional comments until all the criminal proceedings are completed."
Two more trials involving alleged sexual abuse by DeLand are scheduled for later this month.