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‘Powerful evidence’ led to priest’s conviction

Associated Press
In this Feb. 26, 2018, file photo, Roman Catholic priest Robert Deland is arraigned on one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of second-degree sexual conduct and one count of gross indecency between male persons via video.

Saginaw – Prosecutors say audio recordings of a 72-year-old Michigan priest likely led him to plead no contest to charges of sexual misconduct.

Saginaw County’s chief assistant prosecutor, Mark Gaertner, says the recordings were “powerful evidence” against the Rev. Robert DeLand.

Gaertner and others spoke to reporters Wednesday, a day after DeLand’s no-contest plea to second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing injury and gross indecency between males. A no-contest plea means the priest didn’t contest the evidence.

He will be sentenced on April 25. DeLand was pastor at St. Agnes Church in Freeland until his arrest in February 2018. He also regularly mixed with high school students.

DeLand was acquitted last week in a separate case. Gaertner acknowledged it was a “he said-he said” case, and the evidence was not as strong.