Former Catholic priest pleads no contest to indecent exposure in Michigan’s Thumb

MLive [Walker MI]

January 23, 2020

By Cole Waterman

A former Catholic priest has pleaded no contest to a criminal charge stemming from him exposing himself in public.

Lawrence M. Ventline, 70, on Jan. 15 appeared in Huron County District Court and pleaded no contest to the lone count he faced, that of indecent exposure. The charge is a one-year misdemeanor.

Huron County Prosecutor Timothy J. Rutkowski said his office had surveillance video footage recorded the morning of Aug. 26 showing Ventline inside Murphy’s Bakery, 110 W. Huron Ave. in Bad Axe, with his privates exposed.

In pleading no contest as opposed to guilty, Ventline did not admit to having committed a crime. The presiding judge relied on court documents to enter a conviction on the record.

Bad Axe police were notified of Ventline’s conduct in the bakery the day after it occurred.

“We launched an investigation, interviewed witnesses, interviewed the store owners, and reviewed security video from within the store,” Bad Axe Police Chief David W. Rothe previously told MLive. “Once we had gathered all of that information, we tried to interview (Ventline). He refused to come in and give us a statement.”

Ventline had resided in Huron County’s Port Austin but told police in a letter that he had recently moved to the west side of the state, Rothe added.

Ventline surrendered to authorities on Sept. 30 and was arraigned the same day.

Ventline remains free on bond and is scheduled to be sentenced at 3 p.m. on Feb. 6.

Ventline’s past

The Archdiocese of Detroit in 2016 restricted Ventline from public ministry after learning of abuse allegations against him. Prior to that, he had not been assigned to full-time parish ministry for nearly 20 years, the organization reports on its website.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in May announced her office was suspending Ventline’s license to practice as a limited-license counselor. In the May 15 order of summary suspension, Nessel alleged Ventline sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy during the 1989-1990 school year, when Ventline was a pastor in a parish and school within the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Ventline has denied the allegation.

In public Facebook posts in May, Ventline responded to Nessel’s allegations, proclaiming himself a victim and writing the then-11-year-old boy he was accused of assaulting had told a “fiction.”

Ventline also vowed to sue Nessel. As of Jan. 23, he has filed no suit.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, communications director for the Attorney General’s Office, previously told MLive/The Saginaw News that Nessel could not criminally charge Ventline due to the statute of limitations having run out. The case had been investigated by Oakland County Sheriff’s Office personnel.

Ventline in 1999 obtained a limited professional counseling license. In September 2018, he advertised himself as a board-certified professional counselor and a Ph.D.-holder offering heroin-recovery services, Nessel said.

On at least one occasion in 2019, Ventline failed to clarify he held an educationally limited license, “instead referring to his degree in psychology and prices that compared to others who held a Ph.D,” according to Nessel’s complaint. There is also no evidence Ventline provided his non-secular counseling services under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor, as is required by the Public Health Code, she claimed.

On Sept. 6, the Michigan Board of Counseling revoked Ventline’s license and fined him $500.