Michigan charges 5 former priests with sex crimes

Investigators received 400 tips in cases

By Jason Hanna and Elizabeth Joseph, CNN
CNN

(CNN) - Five former Catholic priests have been charged in Michigan with criminal sexual conduct or rape, the state attorney general said Friday, amid a months-long investigation of alleged clergy sexual abuse in the state.

Four were arrested Thursday in various locations across the country, and Michigan will seek the extradition of a fifth man from India, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

"In this case, some of those clergy who preyed on young children and on vulnerable adults, unfortunately those clergy were hiding in plain sight, purporting to comfort their parishioners, hearing their confessions and taking advantage of their position of faith and authority," Nessel said in a news conference Friday in Lansing.

"And today, we begin holding those clergy accountable."

The arrests come as Nessel's office has been investigating alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the state's seven Catholic dioceses. In October, Michigan police seized hundreds of thousands of pages from church offices.

The five men recently charged, according to Nessel's office, are:

• Timothy Michael Crowley, 69, who'd been a priest at various parishes in the Lansing Diocese, including in Ann Arbor. He was arrested Thursday in Tempe, Arizona. He is charged in Washtenaw County with eight counts of criminal sexual conduct -- four in the first degree and four in the second degree.

Crowley is accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy from 1982-1990 while serving at three different parishes. The alleged abuse began when the boy was 10 years old. Crowley is accused of forcing the boy to watch gay pornography, masturbating in the boy's presence and having oral sex with him, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors say Crowley threatened to kill the boy if he would tell a nun or his parents about the abuse.

In 1993, the Diocese of Lansing paid the boy a $200,000 settlement and had him sign a nondisclosure agreement, court documents show. Crowley relocated to Alaska in 1995 where he lived for about 10 years before moving to Arizona in 2014.

• Neil Kalina, 63, who had been a priest at St. Kieran Catholic Church in Shelby Township in the Detroit Archdiocese. He was arrested Thursday in Littlerock, California. He is charged in Macomb County with four felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

He is accused of giving alcohol, powder cocaine and marijuana to a 12-year-old boy and fondling him on several occasions, a criminal complaint said.

In 1985, Kalina moved to California, where he "operates a faith-based service program for at-risk young men," the document said.

• Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, who was a priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Burton in the Lansing Diocese. He was arrested Thursday in Marion County, Florida. He is charged in Genesee County with six felony counts of criminal sexual conduct -- three in the first degree and three in the second degree.

He is accused of fondling and sexually abusing a boy who attended the church's primary school beginning in 1995 until roughly five years later, a criminal complaint states. Prosecutors said DeLorenzo was placed on restrictive ministry in 2002 after he admitted to sexually abusing another minor in the 1980s.

• Patrick Casey, 55, who'd been a priest at St. Theodore of Canterbury in Westland. He was arrested Thursday in Oak Park, Michigan. He is charged in Wayne County with one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Casey allegedly engaged in several sexual acts with a 24-year-old man who sought counseling during a confession in 2013, a criminal complaint said.

He was dismissed from ministry last year after the man reported the incident to the archdiocese in 2015, prompting a formal investigation.

• Jacob Vellian, 84, who'd been a priest at St. John the Evangelist in Benton Harbor. He lives in Kerala, India; no arrest was immediately reported. He is charged in Berrien County with two counts of rape.

Vellian is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl who volunteered as an administrative assistant at the Benton Harbor church in the early 1970s.

CNN's attempts to reach the men for comment weren't immediately successful.

Nessel's office said it has been investigating 400 tips to its clergy abuse hotline since the start of the year, and has asked the dioceses to suspend their internal review processes until the investigation is over.

"Almost all of these charges came as a direct result of calls to our tip line, but were then corroborated by files seized from the dioceses last fall, followed by multiple interviews with victims," Nessel said Friday in a statement. Her office encourages anyone with information that would help their investigation into abuse in the Catholic Church to visit mi.gov/clergyabuse.

The Michigan investigation of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is joined by a federal investigation and similar probes in at least 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

The investigations follow a damning report released by a grand jury in Pennsylvania in August that accused more than 300 "predator priests" of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children in six dioceses since 1947. The vast majority of cases occurred before Catholic bishops in the United States instituted new child-safety protocols.

Criminal charges are rare in these cases because the alleged abuse often occurred years or decades ago, beyond the statutes of limitation in many states. In the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation, for example, only two priests faced charges; they are now in jail.

Some states recently have expanded their statutes of limitation for current and future crimes. But Supreme Court precedent says criminal charges cannot be filed in an old case if a reporting time limit for that case ever expired.

CNN's Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

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