Judge delays decision on change of venue request in Catholic priest’s sex abuse trial
By Bob Johnson
March 17, 2019
The attorney for Robert “Father Bob” DeLand Jr. argued in a Saginaw County District courtroom Monday that extensive media coverage will make it difficult to seat an unbiased jury in the Saginaw Catholic priest’s upcoming trial.
During the hearing that took place on Monday, March 18, in Judge Darnell Jackson’s courtroom, attorney Alan Crawford asked for a change of venue as well as additional challenges when vetting potential jurors.
“It’s going to be rare that we find anyone who hasn’t heard anything about this case,” Crawford said.
Prosecution argued that media coverage was not grounds for a venue change and called it premature.
Jackson denied the additional challenges of potential jurors that Crawford requested, but did not rule on a venue change, stating that he will reserve that ruling for once jury selection begins.
Jury selection for DeLand’s first trial begins Tuesday, March 19.
DeLand, 72, is charged with six felonies and one misdemeanor in five separate files. The charges relate to two male teens and one man having accused DeLand of sexually assaulting them.
DeLand appeared in the courtroom Monday during the hearing. He is currently suspended from his job in the Saginaw Diocese, where he most recently worked in the Freeland area.
Another trial for DeLand is set to begin Thursday, March 21 as well as one on Tuesday, March 26. All trail dates are pending how long jury selection and testimony takes, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw on March 16 released a statement ahead of DeLand’s trials. A video statement by interim Bishop Walter Hurley asks parishioners to pray for healing and justice.