Michigan priest acquitted of sexual assault charges

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — A 72-year-old Michigan priest has been acquitted of sexually assaulting two teens with his hands in the first of three trials.

There were gasps Thursday as the jury’s verdict was announced. The Rev. Robert DeLand testified in his own defense and denied the allegations during a two-day trial in Saginaw County.

A teen said he was shaking DeLand’s hand at a memorial service in 2017 when the priest reached toward his groin. Another witness said DeLand took him out of class in 2017 and took him to an empty room at Freeland High School. He says DeLand gave him $20 and slid a hand down his back to his buttocks.

DeLand told jurors, “I would not do that.”

DeLand pleaded no contest to charges last September but withdrew the plea .

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