Judge Denies Accused Priest’s Request to Throw out Confession in Sex Crimes Case
By Justine Lofton
December 8, 2020
LANSING, MI – A Michigan judge recently denied a request to throw out a confession from a priest accused of sex crimes.
Gary Jacobs, a former Catholic priest in the Upper Peninsula’s Ontonagon and Dickinson counties, is charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in five cases. His confession will stand in court.
Jacobs, 75, was in court on Friday, Dec. 4, for a Walker Hearing during which the Ontonagon County Circuit Court judge denied Jacobs’ request to throw out his confession.
Jacobs is among 11 clergymen so far charged with sex crimes uncovered by Michigan Department of Attorney General’s ongoing clergy abuse probe. In two years, the investigation has resulted in two convictions; the sentences were for 60 and 45 days in jail. The probe has also identified at least 454 accused priests and 811 victims.
“The work of our clergy abuse investigation team has been critical in moving these cases forward, bringing us that much closer to justice,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement.
Four of Jacobs’ five cases are in Ontonagon County. A judge recently agreed to split those cases into two separate trials. The judge will also allow witnesses to testify in both cases.
Jacobs is charged with first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from alleged assaults during the early 1980s in Ontonagon County and in 1984 in Dickinson County. He was arrested in January in Albuquerque, N.M.
Each first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge is punishable by up to life in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring, while the second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Jacobs is scheduled to appear in Ontonagon County Circuit Court on Dec. 18 for a pretrial hearing before Judge Michael Pope. He is also scheduled for a pretrial conference by phone on Jan. 4 in Dickinson County Circuit Court before Judge Christopher Ninomiya.
Last week, another Michigan judge died a request from an accused priest who wanted to leave the state to return home despite a $50,000 cash/surety bond.
Judge James Brady of the 47th District Court in Farmington Hills denied the request from Gary Berthiaume, a former priest at Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, who is charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony. He was in court on Wednesday, Dec. 2, for a probable cause hearing.
The victim in the case was 14 years old at the time of the alleged 1977 assault at the rectory of Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington. Berthiaume was a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Berthiaume was arrested in 1977 for sexual assault of two other minors in Michigan. After serving a sentence in Oakland County Jail, he was transferred to the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. He was moved again in 1987 to the Diocese of Joliet in Illinois.
Berthiaume was arrested on the current charges in September in Illinois. He waived extradition and was returned to Michigan in October. His bond stands at $50,000 cash/surety. Berthiaume’s preliminary examination is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 20.
“My office remains committed to carefully reviewing all credible allegations of sexual abuse on behalf of all victims who come forward to tell their story,” Nessel said.