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Saginaw-area priest charged with sex crimes

Posted at 8:58 AM, Feb 27, 2018

 A Roman Catholic priest who has served for decades in the Saginaw area was charged Monday with sex crimes.

The Rev. Robert DeLand, 71, appeared in court on three charges, including second-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted criminal sexual conduct. He celebrated Mass a day earlier at St. Agnes Church in Freeland.

DeLand was released on bond but must wear an electronic tether and stay away from anyone under 21. He appeared in court by video, wearing a striped jail jumpsuit.

Defense attorney Alan Crawford said DeLand has "dedicated his life to service."

"He would like to get this behind him. ... He has helped not hundreds but thousands of individuals," Crawford told Judge M. Randall Jurrens.

At one point, DeLand asked when he can learn the names of two male accusers, ages 17 and 21. Jurrens told him to talk to his attorney.

Det. Brian Berg of the Tittabawassee Township police said the 17-year-old helped investigators and was "very brave."

Police said they've received several complaints about DeLand since August. He had been under surveillance since November, although police said kids were not in danger during the covert operation.

Investigators publicly urged anyone with more information to step forward.

"I am deeply distressed by this most serious situation," said Bishop Joseph Cistone, head of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. "Clearly, the diocese will cooperate fully with law enforcement and their investigation."