Police raid Michigan diocese while priest faces sex charges

Police in Michigan raided the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, the residence of the bishop and a rectory Thursday following the recent arrest of a priest accused of committing sex crimes.

Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner said he could not disclose what officers were after in the searches conducted at the diocesan offices, the home of Bishop Joseph Cistone and the rectory at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw.

Cistone and the diocese have not carried through on promises to support investigators looking into sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. Robert DeLand and others in the diocese, the prosecutor said.

"Contrary to the statements of the diocese and the bishop that they would fully cooperate with law enforcement, they did not," Gaertner said. "Therefore it was necessary for law enforcement to use other investigative tools, including search warrants."

Earlier this month, prosecutors formed a team to coordinate and investigate allegations of abuse within the diocese. Messages seeking comment were left for a diocesan representative.

DeLand, 71, pastor at St. Agnes Church in Freeland, was charged Feb. 26 with criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting two males, ages 21 and 17. DeLand has pleaded not guilty.

Separately, the diocese suspended a 72-year-old priest last weekend after a man said he was sexually abused as a boy. No charges have been filed.

DeLand has been suspended from the priesthood while legal proceedings against him continue. He also is prohibited from having contact with anyone under age 21. He's free on bond with a GPS tether.

In a lawsuit filed this month against DeLand, the teenager said the priest fondled him, provided cash and requested that they "party together" with drugs. It said the boy met DeLand last May at a funeral and by the end of the year, the priest was calling or texting the teen at least 17 times a day. The boy said he fled the priest's apartment in February following unwelcome touching.