Michigan priest pleads guilty to assault in clergy abuse case
A Michigan priest pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated assault in a case part of the Attorney General Office's investigation of clergy sexual abuse, state officials announced.
The Rev. Patrick Casey, who was among several priests charged in May in connection with the probe, is the first convicted, Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement on Tuesday.
He had been accused of engaging in sexual acts during confession with a 24-year-old man who came to him for counseling in 2013.
When the man reported the incident to the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2015, Casey admitted the acts occurred and the archdiocese removed Casey from ministry, according to the attorney general’s complaint.
Casey, who was most recently assigned to St. Theodore of Canterbury in Westland, had been barred from representing himself as a priest or conducting any sort of church ministry, according to the archdiocese. His case was listed as under canonical review in Rome.
A trial for the 56-year-old started this month, Wayne County Circuit Court records show.
Casey, who had been charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one misdemeanor count of aggravated assault before Wayne County Circuit Judge Wanda Evans.
He faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, the Attorney General's Office said. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 20.
“For too long, victims of clergy abuse have suffered unimaginable pain — often in silence. Mr. Casey’s decision to plead guilty to aggravated assault ensures that he will be held accountable for the pain and suffering he has caused," Nessel said in a statement.
"While this is the first conviction resulting from our investigation, I can assure you it is still only the beginning of an aggressive pursuit of justice for all those who have been victimized by priests or members of the clergy. Our department remains committed to bringing an end to an era of abuse that has hidden in plain sight for far too long.”
An attorney listed as representing Casey did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, noted the significance of Casey's case.
"Fr. Patrick Casey was accused of sexually coercing and abusing a man who came to him for counseling. This kind of abuse of power can be very damaging and we are hopeful that the victim in this case is getting the help he needs," the group said in a statement.
"We are very grateful to the brave victim in this case and to the law enforcement professionals who pursued it. We hope that others who were abused in Michigan, whether by Fr. Casey or others, will come forward, make a report to police, and start healing."