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Michigan priest pleads guilty to molesting 5-year-old boy after family funeral

Vincent DeLorenzo, 84, will likely get a year in jail when he is sentenced in June and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

A Michigan priest who preyed on a 5-year-old boy after a family funeral in 1987 pleaded guilty this week to sexual assault, the state’s attorney general confirmed

Vincent DeLorenzo, 84, who served for many years in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges in connection with the sexual assault of another 5-year-old boy starting in 1995 through 2000.

“Our team continues to work day and night to bring an end to an era of abuse that has hidden in plain sight for far too long and provide justice to those who have suffered years of unimaginable trauma,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement Tuesday. “This guilty plea will hopefully close this painful chapter and open the opportunity for much-needed healing for those victimized by DeLorenzo.”

When he returns to court on June 13, DeLorenzo is expected to be sentenced to five years probation, the first of which he will serve in the Genesee County Jail, Nessel’s office said. He will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

In addition, DeLorenzo will have to pay restitution, undergo counseling and listen to a victim impact statement if one is made at sentencing.

It was not immediately clear whether the 5-year-old, who is now around 40 years old, that DeLorenzo admitted molesting after presiding over the burial of the boy’s relative, would be at the sentencing. Appearing before Genesee Circuit Judge Brian S. Pickell and flanked by his attorney, Michael Manley, DeLorenzo admitted Tuesday that he assaulted the boy. He told the judge he’d been asked to meet with the boy because the child had been acting out.

Prosecutors offered DeLorenzo the plea after consulting with the priest’s accusers, of which there were more than two, according to Nessel’s office.

The organization SNAP, or Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, praised Nessel for prosecuting DeLorenzo but said the former priest’s punishment does not fit the crime.

“It is always disheartening when predators avoid further justice through legal loopholes,” SNAP said in a statement. “We truly hope that the sentencing judge sends a very strong message in this case and points out that regardless of age, justice will prevail.”

DeLorenzo was ordained in 1965 and removed from the ministry in 2002, according to the Lansing diocese’s list of credibly accused priests. He served in at least two parishes in the diocese before he moved to the Ocala area in Florida, where he was arrested in May 2019.

DeLorenzo was one of five former Michigan priests that Nessel’s investigators tracked down and charged with sexual offenses against children dating back to 1950.

David Kerr, a spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing, said now that DeLorenzo has pleaded guilty he will be formally defrocked. He also praised the bravery of the priest’s accusers.

There is no statute of limitations for first-degree criminal sexual assault in Michigan, but in cases like DeLorenzo’s a suspect can be charged only within 10 years of the crime or before the alleged victim turns 21 years old.

Even though DeLorenzo had pleaded guilty to a crime committed 36 years ago, Nessel was able to charge him because the priest left the state after the incident, which put a freeze on the statute of limitations clock.

“While the crime occurred more than 10 years ago, Michigan’s statute of limitations is tolled when a defendant leaves the state for any reason within the statute of limitations and resumes if and when the defendant returns to the state,” her statement said.