Catholic priest pleads guilty to assault amid hung jury, child sex crime charge dropped

Amid a hung jury, a Detroit Catholic priest ended the trial and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault Tuesday as his sex crime charge was dropped.

Patrick Casey, 55, Archdiocese of Detroit, was charged in Wayne County with one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the charge stemmed from allegedly performing oral sex on a child during confession "while acting as the victim's spiritual counselor." 

Casey, who was a priest at St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish in Westland, was arrested in Oak Park in May. Ordained in 1997, he's accused of abusing the man he had been counseling during confession in 2013. The victim apparently struggled with suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide weeks before seeing him for the first time.

According to the complaint, Casey told the victim that he could "still have a gay relationship, but still go to heaven," before performing oral sex on him. The archdiocese learned of and reported the allegation in 2015. He removed Casey from the church, saying Casey clearly had taken advantage of someone who was vulnerable and called his actions "predatory."

"He was in a position of authority over the victim by being the victim's priest," said prosecutor Danielle Joyce Hagaman-Clark.

But Casey's attorney says in Casey's case, the sex was consensual.

"The evidence shows that as the sexual conduct was taking place, it was (the victim ) who kept pushing it to the next level," said defense attorney Stephen Rabaut.

Casey was in the process of a jury trial this week until during deliberations, the jury came back hung and Casey took a plea to a lesser charge. The bargain entailed pleading guilty to aggravated assault, while the prosecution dropped the criminal sexual conduct charge. 

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"On January 17, 2013, in the city of Westland, did you intentionally, unexpectedly and inappropriately touch (victim's) groin area?" the prosecution asked.

"Yes I did," Casey said.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20. 

Casey is one Michigan Catholic priests who were charged in an investigation that resulted in 21 criminal sexual conduct charges. The attorney general's office reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents seized from the state's dioceses last October. The clergy abuse hotline has received more than 450 tips since the beginning of the year.

Nessel said nearly all the charges came as a result of calls to their tip line that were later corroborated by files that were seized from the dioceses last fall and multiple interviews with victims.  According to the attorney general's office, the victims range in ages 5 to 26 years old and include four boys and one girl.

The other priests charged include:

Timothy Michael Crowley, 69, Lansing Diocese, was charged in Washtenaw County with four felony counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) 1, a maximum sentence of life in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring, and four felony counts of CSC 2 - a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Crowley was a priest in various parishes, including St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor.

Neil Kalina, 63, Archdiocese of Detroit, was charged in Macomb County with one felony count of CSC 4, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring. Kalina was a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township.

Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, Lansing Diocese, was charged in Genesee County with three felony counts of CSC 1, a maximum sentence of life in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring, and three felony counts of CSC 2, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. DeLorenzo was a priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Burton.

Jacob Vellian, 84, Kalamazoo Diocese, was charged with two counts of Rape, a maximum sentence of life in prison. Vellian was a priest at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Benton Harbor, and moved to Kerala, India.

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