Suspended Priest Robert Deland Granted Parole

By Terry Camp
February 12, 2021

SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - A suspended Saginaw-area priest who has spent nearly two years in prison after pleading no-contest to sex crimes has been granted parole on his first attempt.

Robert DeLand was sent to prison for the alleged sexual assault of a teen in 2019. But as early as April, he’ll most likely be free.

He was known as Father Bob, a popular Catholic priest in the Saginaw Diocese. That changed when DeLand was arrested in February 2018 and charged with several counts of criminal sexual misconduct.

There were three victims in three separate cases -- two 17-year-old males and a 21-year-old man.

He was found not guilty on two of the charges in a 2019 trial, but he pleaded no contest to three other charges a few days later. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such at sentencing.

DeLand was sentenced to a prison term of two to 15 years in April of 2019. A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections confirmed that DeLand was interviewed by the parole board in December and the board has granted his release.

The 73-year-old DeLand has spent his nearly two years behind bars in the Marquette Branch Prison. The Corrections Department website indicates he could be released shortly after April 23.

“This is the obvious and most appropriate decision by the parole board,” DeLand’s attorney, Alan Crawford, wrote in a statement to ABC12. “Father Bob served his time and while in prison was an exemplary prisoner. We are appreciative and are thankful for the board’s decision.”

Before the trial and his no-contest pleas, DeLand originally had reached a plea deal which would have only put him behind bars in the county jail for one year.

But an ABC12 investigation showed certain scoring criteria to determine jail time were scored low. After the report, Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge Darnell Jackson made a ruling that he would not agree to that plea deal.

Once he’s out of prison, DeLand will remain on probation for at least three years and will have to register as a sex offender.

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw released this statement, saying “we continue to hold in our prayers all victims of sexual assault, especially minors and those who are vulnerable. On behalf of the Church, we are deeply sorry for wounds that have been inflicted on the faithful and members of the community as a result of this case.”

“Following the criminal trial against Robert (Fr. Bob) DeLand and in consultation with the independent Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Gruss submitted the case to the Holy See. Restrictions place upon Robert DeLand by the diocese - forbidding him from presenting himself as a priest or exercising public ministry, remain in place permanently. The Holy See will make a final decision regarding Robert DeLand’s priestly status.”








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