Detective fired after exposing predator priest, says superiors wanted him to drop case
MICHIGAN, May 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Despite his stellar record and more than 35 years of experience, the detective who led the investigation into Father Robert DeLand’s preying on a 17-year-old boy was abruptly fired after exposing the priest.
Brian Berg, whom Church Militant describes as “Saginaw county’s most highly decorated police officer,” told that Catholic media outlet that on October 17, his police chief sacked him and wouldn’t give a reason why:
“I was called in out of the blue. ... The chief said, ‘I want to see you,’” recounts Berg. The chief, according to Berg, then curtly told him, “You’re done. You’re fired.”
“I asked why,” recalls Berg, and the chief’s response was simply, “We’re told we don’t have to give you a reason.”
While investigating DeLand, Berg was getting pressured by his superiors to drop the case. But Berg told Church Militant he never let DeLand’s popularity or internal resistance from within his department derail his investigation.
Asked about the pressure that arises from having members inside the police force being friends with the popular priests like DeLand, Berg said, “That’s very prevalent in a small community. But in my 35 years, I’ve tried to never let that influence me. Because at the end of the day, I look in the mirror and [ask] did I do the right thing.”
Berg’s investigation into DeLand, a priest of the Diocese of Saginaw, involved working with a 17-year-old boy whose parents had gone to the police after noticing that the priest was grooming their son. The teen agreed to help with the investigation by wearing a wire to record his interactions with the priest. The cleric made a number of extremely sexually explicit comments to the boy, such as asking him if he thought he’d prefer anal or oral sex.
The investigation culminated in February 2018, when the priest began assaulting the boy, who was pretending to be high on ecstasy. The victim fled to the police, who were nearby in a van, and DeLand was arrested.
This week, thanks to a Freedom of Information Request, Church Militant released the audio recordings of DeLand grooming the victim.
DeLand is now serving two to 15 years in a Michigan prison. He faced three different trials for various charges related to his sexual predation. He avoided one of them by pleading “no contest.”
“The first trial, he was actually acquitted,” said Christine Niles, editor-in-chief of Church Militant. The acquittal was met with “applause from his fans” in the courtroom and “people hugging him” and “trashing the victim, who was there in the courtroom as well.”
DeLand, who went by “Father Bob,” apparently wielded significant influence in the community.
Berg told Church Militant he applied for another police job and was rejected:
Getting blackballed is common when some won’t look the other way. [Berg] then recounted what happened when he tried to get a job with another law enforcement department.
“I interviewed recently for a police chief job and I didn’t get it when I revealed what happened,” he said.
The audio footage of DeLand is “probably the most disturbing, horrible, dark thing that we have ever published on this site,” said Michael Voris, CEO of Church Militant, in a recent video for his show The Download. “As the occasion of the assault on February 25th or 28th got closer and closer, you could hear a change in the priest’s voice. He starts to sound more diabolical, like he’s closing in for the kill.”
“Revolting,” Voris added.
“I think we probably have the strongest reaction to this than we’ve had to anything we’ve ever published,” said Niles. “This gave us a crucial inside look into how a homosexual predator priest grooms his victims.”
Bishop Joseph Cistone, DeLand’s ordinary, had lung cancer and died in October 2018. Police raided his house, rectory, and cathedral in March 2018, saying he wasn’t cooperating fully with their ongoing sex abuse investigation.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced today that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert D. Gruss, up until now the bishop of Rapid City, to succeed Cistone.
For a list of all Saginaw City Council members and their email addresses click here.
Read all LifeSiteNews coverage of the Fr. DeLand case here.