May 27, 2021
LANSING - An Ontonagon County judge handed down the harshest prison sentence yet in the Michigan Attorney General's clergy abuse investigation.
Last month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a plea agreement with Gary Jacobs, a former priest in the Upper Peninsula who faced cases in both Ontonagon and Dickinson Counties. The plea hearing in Dickinson County happened earlier this month.
The Ontonagon sentencing, which happened before Circuit Court Judge Michael Pope earlier this week, involves guilty pleas on three counts of criminal sexual conduct 1st degree and one count of criminal sexual conduct 2nd degree.
As reached in the plea agreement, Jacobs was sentenced between eight and 15 years on each count, which will run concurrently.
Additionally, Jacobs will be required to complete:
"A lengthy prison sentence will never erase the pain Mr. Jacobs inflicted on those who trusted him, but it serves as an example of our pursuit of justice related to clergy abuse and, hopefully, can provide some sense of relief," Nessel said. "We are indebted to those who came forward to make him accountable for his actions. Their courage to speak up is what drove these proceedings, so that while justice was delayed, it was certainly not denied."
It was also important to the Attorney General's clergy abuse team that survivors of Jacobs' abuse be heard if they so chose. Nine people submitted or read victim impact statements during the sentencing.
"I believe child sexual abuse is worse than murder. Once you are dead you are finished. When you are abused, you endure the mental anguish for the rest of your life. The sexual abuse that [Gary Jacobs] inflicted on me has interfered and destroyed my life. The ripple effects of this man's crime against me as a boy are still present and he must be held accountable by serving his maximum sentence," one survivor said.
Two of the survivors were willing to share their full statements while staying anonymous.
You can read the statements by clicking the links to each below:
A sentencing date in Dickinson County is set for Friday, July 2nd at 12 p.m. EST. That guilty plea involves one count of criminal sexual conduct 2nd degree.
This project was supported in part by Grant No. WE AX 0030 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.