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Priest enters no-contest plea, but it's not over

Posted: 8:01 AM, Sep 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-07 12:01:51Z

A high-profile sex abuse case in Michigan involves a former Catholic priest and three victims.

The day before his first trial was set to begin, former Catholic priest Robert Deland entered no contest pleas to seven charges.

He's accused of sexually abusing three young men at his Saginaw Township home, as well as the Tittabawassee Township Church where he worked.

"The pleas yesterday did not stop the investigation; this is still continuing, this is not over," said Mark Gaertner, Saginaw County assistant prosecutor.

At a news conference, Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner revealed the Michigan State Police Computer Crime Unit is still analyzing the evidence collected during raids.

"We followed the evidence, and we didn't follow emotion; it's the evidence we're after," Gaertner said.

When asked about whether anyone else could be charged, Gaertner said, "Frankly, I'd like to see no more charges. I'd like to see an end to it, but we're not going to stop it because he pled yesterday."

When sentenced, Deland will likely spend a year in jail, five years on probation and register as a sex offender.

Gaertner says the task force looking into the abuse is still working.

"It's put a real dent in the resources of our efforts in Saginaw County to fight serious and violent crime. We've had to pull detectives from various units to work on this."

Tittabawassee Township police Detective Brian Berg met one of the teens last November.

"Our victim is in counseling now; this has been very traumatic on him," Gaertner said.

That teen helped investigators record Deland.

And while investigators feel they had the evidence to convict Deland, they also know going to trial has risks.

"And if we had one juror on there that would, you know, have that philosophy of protecting the mother church no matter what, then we'd get a hung jury, or something of that nature, then we'd revictimize the victims again," Berg said.