Former Oakland County priest faces trial in sex abuse case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A former priest in Oakland County charged with sexually assaulting a youth decades ago is heading to trial, the Michigan Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday.

Gary Berthiaume was bound over on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony, after a ruling by 47th District Court Judge James Brady, state officials said.

The 80-year-old was first charged in 2020. The victim told authorities an assault happened at the Our Lady of Sorrows rectory in Farmington in August 1977, when the youth was 14 and Berthiaume served as a priest, officials have said.

Last month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office announced he also was charged in two other cases stemming from allegations of abuse in the 1970s involving teens.

Berthiaume had also worked at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wyandotte before he was arrested in 1977 for allegedly sexually assaulting two other minors in Michigan, authorities reported. He served a jail sentence then was transferred to dioceses in Ohio and Illinois.

“Seeing Mr. Berthiaume bound over for trial is yet another example of my clergy abuse investigation team’s dedication to securing justice for survivors,” Nessel said Wednesday. “We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure those who bravely come forward with their stories receive their day in court.”

An attorney listed in court records as representing Berthiaume did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The charges follow others resulting from the Nessel's ongoing investigation of clergy abuse. Her team secured its fourth conviction in June, and charges have been filed against 11 people with ties to the Catholic Church, representatives said.

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Officials with the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests on Wednesday praised the Berthiaume's charges and the ongoing probe.

"The best way that we have seen cases move forward is through the secular investigations and we applaud Attorney General Dana Nessel for the ongoing work," said Mike McDonnell, the Chicago-based group's communications manager. "We believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg."