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AG Nessel Releases Report of Alleged Abuse at Gaylord Catholic Diocese
January 08, 2024
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today announced the release of a report by the Department of Attorney General concerning allegations of abuse that took place in the Diocese of Gaylord.
The report was released to acknowledge the reports of abuse from victims, and to report out the Department’s findings. The document is a compilation of the information obtained from the Department of Attorney General tip line, victim interviews, police investigations, open-source media, paper documents seized from the Diocese, and electronic documents found on the Diocesan computers, as well as reports of allegations disclosed by the Diocese.
The list of priests for which there were allegations of sexual misconduct against either children or adults since January 1, 1950, for the Diocese of Gaylord that was established in 1971, is derived from information gleaned from a search warrant that was executed against the Diocese of Gaylord on October 3, 2018, and from the tip line operated by the Department of Attorney General since 2018. There are 28 entries on this list, which includes 26 priests and 2 deacons; 18 were ordained or incardinated by the Diocese of Gaylord.
“Our promise to the victims was that every case of sexual abuse and assault would be thoroughly reviewed and that the results of the investigation would be transparent,” said Nessel. “I especially want to thank the survivors who have shared their stories, sometimes for the first time after decades of silence. Their willingness to come forward has helped bring attention to an issue that has affected so many in our state and our country, especially children.”
The Diocese of Gaylord agreed to provide reports of abuse to the Department of Attorney General. Victims often reach out to their faith leaders to share stories of alleged abuse. The willingness of the Diocese to provide information was instrumental in the compilation of the report. The report was shared with the Diocese of Gaylord in advance of being released to the public to ensure accuracy and completeness.
The report contains detailed descriptions of allegations of sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct, including grooming and misuse of authority, against minors and adults. The possible criminal prosecution of many of these allegations is barred by the statute of limitations, or because the accused priest is deceased, or for other allegations because the conduct did not violate Michigan law or the person who alleged the sexual abuse did not wish to pursue criminal charges.
The information is being released to the public as an acknowledgment to the victims of these alleged crimes and as a public accounting of the resources allocated to the Department of Attorney General to investigate and prosecute clergy abuse. It is important to note, a criminal charge is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Department of Attorney General plans to release reports for each of the Dioceses. The first report, detailing the investigation into the Diocese of Marquette was released October 27, 2022.
“We must break down the walls of silence that so often surround sexual assault and abuse,” said Nessel. “In the end, we hope this investigation provides a voice to those who have suffered in silence for so long and shines a light on those alleged offenders whose actions allowed them to evade true accountability.”
In October 2018, 42 Michigan State Police troopers, five officers from different law enforcement agencies and 15 special agents from the Department of Attorney General executed search warrants at Michigan’s seven dioceses. In that effort, they seized 220 boxes of paper documents and more than 3.5 million digital documents.
To date, the department has:
- Completed the paper document review of more than 1.5 million documents;
- Completed the electronic document review of more than 3.5 million documents;
- Hired and trained a full-time victim advocate to support the hundreds of victims identified during the investigation;
- Continued to refer the completed criminal investigations back to the respective dioceses;
- Followed up with victims who have not been interviewed by a trauma-informed interviewer; and
- Issued criminal charges in 11 cases throughout the entire state and secured convictions in nine cases, delivering justice for 38 survivors.
“I want to commend the Michigan State Police and my staff for their unwavering commitment to seeing justice served in these tremendously difficult cases,” said Nessel. “While no report or conviction will ever undo the pain the survivors have faced, I hope sharing their truths will bring some closure on what was for many, a decades long battle.”
Of the 11 cases, none of the cases were related to priests ministering in the Diocese of Gaylord. The 11 criminal prosecutions of Catholic priests charged with sexual assault in Michigan by the Attorney General are:
- People v. Vincent DeLorenzo – DeLorenzo, a priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Burton, was sentenced to one year in jail and five years’ probation in June of 2023 on one count of Attempted First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. DeLorenzo pled guilty to sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy following a service he officiated for the boy’s deceased family member in 1987.
- People v. Joseph “Jack” Baker – Baker, a pastor at St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford and at St. Mary Parish in Wayne and an associate pastor at Sacred Heart in Dearborn and at St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills, was sentenced to 3-15 years’ incarceration in March of 2023 on one count of First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. A jury found Baker guilty of sexual penetration with a person under 13 for a 2004 rape. The charge against Baker came about as a result of a referral from the Archdiocese of Detroit, which received the original report and immediately reported it to the lead prosecutor on Attorney General Nessel’s clergy abuse team in 2019.
- People v. Neil Kalina – Kalina, a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township, was sentenced to 7-15 years’ incarceration in July 2022 on two counts of Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. A jury found Kalina guilty of sexually assaulting a child aged 14 in 1984.
- People v. Gary Berthiaume – Berthiaume, a priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wyandotte and later Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, was sentenced to 17 months to 15 years’ incarceration on two counts of Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and one count of Gross Indecency in January 2022. Berthiaume pled guilty to the CSC charges and no contest to the gross indecency in 2021. Berthiaume sexually abused three children between the ages of 13 and 15 in the 1970s. He was arrested in 1977 for sexual assault of two other minor children and served time in the Oakland County Jail for these crimes, before being transferred by the church to the Diocese of Cleveland.
- People v. Gary Jacobs – Jacobs, a priest in the Diocese of Marquette active in Dickinson and Ontonagon Counties, was sentenced to 8-15 years’ incarceration on three counts of First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and two counts of Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Jacobs pled guilty to each count, admitting to abusing five children under the age of 16 in the Upper Peninsula during the 1980s. In total, there were 11 complaints of abuse by children against Jacobs.
- People v. Joseph Comperchio – Comperchio, a church organist and Catholic school drama and music teacher at St. John Catholic School in Jackson who held himself out to be a Catholic brother, was sentenced to 10-30 years’ incarceration on one count of First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and three counts of Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Comperchio pled guilty to each count in June of 2021, he had been originally charged with two counts of First-Degree CSC and nine counts of Second-Degree CSC for sexual abuse of four minor children, some as young as nine-years-old, in the 1970s. Comperchio died from natural causes in 2022 while serving his sentence.
- People v. Brian Stanley – Stanley, a priest at St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Otsego, was sentenced in January of 2020 to 60 days’ incarceration and five years’ probation on one count of Attempted False Imprisonment. Stanley pled guilty in January 2020 to immobilizing a teenage boy by wrapping him tightly in plastic wrap and using masking tape as additional binding to cover the child’s eyes and mouth, leaving him bound and alone in the janitor’s room for an extended period of time before returning and eventually letting him go in 2013.
- People v. Patrick Casey – Casey, a priest at St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish in Westland, was sentenced in November of 2019 to 45 days’ incarceration and one year of probation on one count of Aggravated Assault. Casey pled to the charge as a jury deliberated one count Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct for initiating oral sex with an adult attempting to make confession to him in 2013.
- People v. Timothy Crowley – Crowley, a priest at St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor, was sentenced in November 2023, to one year incarceration and five years’ probation on two counts of Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Crowley pled guilty in August 2023, and was originally charged with four felony counts of First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and four felony counts of Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct for sexually abusing a minor child three decades ago.
- People v. Roy Joseph – Joseph, a priest in Marquette County, was charged with one count of First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in January of 2020 for a 2006 assault. He is awaiting extradition from India.
- People v. Jacob Vellian – Vellian, a priest at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Benton Harbor, was charged in May of 2019 with two counts of rape under the previous criminal sexual assault statutes. In November 2023, the Department was notified that Vellian likely passed while awaiting extradition from India but is awaiting formal confirmation from the Department of State of his death.
In addition to the paper and digital documents seized from the dioceses, information is also received through the Attorney General’s clergy abuse tip line. The tip line has generated 1099 tips related to abuse, leading to many police investigations, at least 180 victim interviews, and more than 285 police reports.
For Gaylord, the investigation yielded 10 tips to the AG tipline. Four of those were provided directly from the Diocese of Gaylord. Of the 220 boxes of paper documents that were seized from the Archdiocese and the six Dioceses, approximately 21 boxes of documents were seized and reviewed related to the Diocese of Gaylord. Of the 3.5 million electronic documents seized, approximately 700,000 digital documents were reviewed related to the Diocese of Gaylord.
Information can be shared via the investigation hotline at 844-324-3374 or by email.
For more information on the Attorney General’s clergy abuse investigation or to submit information, visit the department’s website.
Victims of sexual abuse and/or assault in need of additional resources should contact 855-VOICES4.
Please note: For all criminal proceedings, a criminal charge is merely an allegation. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Department does not provide booking photos.