AG Nessel's Clergy Abuse Investigation Leads to Sexual Assault Charge Against Former Catholic Priest

Contact: Ryan Jarvi 517-599-2746
Agency: Attorney General

September 29, 2020

LANSING – A former priest in the Farmington area has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor as Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel continues to investigate sexual abuse within the seven Catholic dioceses across the state. 

Gary Berthiaume, 78, is charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony. He was arrested on the charge today at his home in Warrenville, Illinois. He will face extradition to Farmington, Michigan where charges were authorized last week. 

The victim, who was 14 at the time, reported the assault took place in August 1977 at the rectory of Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, where 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 jail sentence in the 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. 

“My office’s investigation into clergy abuse will continue to receive, review and act upon credible allegations of abuse on behalf of the many victims who have come forward,” Nessel said. “Criminal sexual conduct at any level must not be tolerated, and we must ensure justice is served to those who assault others – particularly those authority figures and people in powerful positions who prey on the weak and vulnerable.” 

The Michigan Department of the Attorney General seized 1.5 million paper documents and 3.5 million electronic documents through search warrants executed in October 2018. Including Berthiaume, the Attorney General’s investigation has resulted in criminal charges being filed against 11 individuals with ties to the Catholic Church.   

To learn more about Nessel’s investigation into clergy abuse or to submit information, visit the Attorney General’s website. Tips can also be provided over the phone by calling 844-324-3374.  

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Attorney General’s office does not provide photos of defendants, but one may be available from the booking agency, Warrenville, Illinois Police Department.