Father Robert DeLand has pleaded no contest to sexual assault of a male minor.
The Saginaw, Michigan priest made the surprise plea after a lengthy meeting yesterday with his attorney, Alan Crawford, who convinced him to take a plea deal rather than face a jury with overwhelming evidence that could get him convicted and sentenced with a long prison term.
The current plea deal is expected to get DeLand two to 15 years behind bars.
DeLand was arrested last year after a four-month covert operation spearheaded by Detective Brian Berg. The victim was in 10th grade when he met Fr. DeLand, who took a special interest in the boy, at the time grieving the loss of a friend to suicide.
He paid for his counseling sessions, gave him gifts of cash, and audio evidence reveals DeLand offered to buy the boy cigarettes, alcohol and the drug ecstasy and even told him to watch gay porn, masturbate to it and tell the priest how it felt.
His parents, concerned by the priest's grooming behavior, agreed to cooperate in an undercover sting; the victim wired and secretly recording conversations with the priest.
It's those secret recordings that we're told DeLand did not want being made public, leading to his no contest plea.
Among other things, the audio recordings have evidence of DeLand luring the boy to his apartment where he sexually assaulted him, leading to his immediate arrest.
A third trial had originally been set for this Thursday involving a 21-year-old male for DeLand, who claims the priest took him to his apartment, laced one of his drinks with a drug, causing the young man to black out. When he awoke, he claims he was being sexually assaulted by the priest. Instead of facing another trial, DeLand also pleaded no contest to this charge. He's expected to get anywhere between two to 15 years in prison.
Reporting from Saginaw, Michigan, I'm Christine Niles for Church Militant.