Former U.P. priest sentenced to 8-15 years for sex abuse

MLive [Walker MI]

May 26, 2021

By Justine Lofton

A former Upper Peninsula priest sat in court this week and heard from his victims before receiving a sentence of 8-15 years in prison for sexual abuse he committed in the 1980s.

Gary Jacobs, 75, pleaded guilty in Ontonagon County last month to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in a plea bargain that dropped several other sex abuse charges.

He was sentenced Tuesday, May 25, by Judge Michael Pope in Ontonagon County Circuit Court to 8-15 years on each count, including the second-degree charge, which will be served concurrently, The Daily Mining Gazette reports. Jacobs’ sentence hearing served as a platform for his victims – now in their 50s and 60s – to speak.

One victim described “a life sentence of scars and painful memories,” the report said. Several victims described a situation in which Jacobs befriended their parents, which made some fearful of telling their parents about the abuse. Others told their parents but weren’t believed.

“Who would I be if I hadn’t been imprisoned for life as a child?” one victim said. “I would be a totally different man than I am today. Gary made sure that man never existed. He deserves far more than 15 years in prison for what he’s done. I’ve already endured more than 40.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Jacobs will be a lifetime registered sex offender, will have lifetime electronic monitoring and is required to attend sex offender counseling. He received credit for 455 days served in jail.

Prior to the plea agreement, Jacobs was facing four separate sexual abuse cases in Ontonagon County. The agreement required that he plead guilty to the highest charge in each case. Jacobs faces a fifth case in neighboring Dickinson County.

The charges in the five cases involved alleged sexual assaults between 1981 and 1984 in Ontonagon County and in early 1984 in Dickinson County when Jacobs worked for the Catholic Diocese of Marquette. Several charges involved a child between 13 and 16 and one charge involved a child younger than 13.

In court Tuesday, Jacobs said he has been a recovering alcoholic since 1988. He is now in a monogamous relationship with his husband and continues to work through his own past as an abused child, the newspaper reports.

“I am Gary Jacobs and I alone am to blame … I hope someday, those of you who I have harmed can find forgiveness in your hearts and peace in your hearts as well,” he said.

As of October, a two-year investigation into sexual abuse in Michigan’s Catholic churches had identified 454 accused priests and 811 victims, and led to charges against 11 clergymen. Aside from Jacobs, two other priests have been convicted thus far; their sentences were for 60 and 45 days in jail.