LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A Catholic priest living in Berrien County is accused of secreting away a teenage boy and holding him against his will in the janitor’s room of St. Margaret’s Church in Otsego.
Father Brian Stanley, 57, of Coloma, appeared in court via video feed Thursday where he was formally charged with unlawful imprisonment.
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says the crime occurred in fall 2013 when Stanley was asked by the victim’s family to help counsel their son.
Stanley immobilized the victim by wrapping him tightly in plastic wrap and using masking tape as additional binding. The boy’s eyes and mouth were also covered, according to the AG’s office.
Stanley left the victim, bound and alone in the janitor’s room for over an hour before returning and eventually letting him go, according to a news release.
The attorney general’s office says it was a sexually-motivated crime.
“As our team continues to pore over what we previously thought was hundreds of thousands of pages of documents – but is now known to be millions of pages – seized from all seven Michigan dioceses last year, we know this is still only the beginning,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “This is about taking on large-scale institutions that turn a blind eye to victims and making certain we hold them accountable – that includes unapologetically pursuing any and all individuals who abuse their power to victimize our residents.”
Authorities say Stanley is no longer an active priest.
The charge against Stanley is the result of information from the files seized from the diocese in October 2018, according to a news release.
The news release states it is apparent from archdiocese records that Stanley had been engaging in this type of conduct with the binding materials for decades.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo said it twice alerted police to reported incidents involving Stanley, but authorities did not file charges.
The diocese issued the following statement regarding the case against Stanley:
“We promptly placed Fr. Brian Stanley on administrative leave pending the outcome of the police investigation. According to the Otsego Police Department, ‘the complaint was not criminal and there would be no charges.’
“Four years later, the Diocese learned of additional allegations involving Fr. Stanley. We reported these incidents to the Coldwater Police Department; no charges were filed by law enforcement. We placed Fr. Stanley on administrative leave from active ministry in January 2017. He remains on administrative leave and is prohibited from public ministry.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to promote greater protection and safeguards of all people, particularly for children and vulnerable adults. We adhere to the National 2002 Charter for the Protection of Young People, which guides all that we do.
We continue to cooperate with the Office of the Michigan Attorney General in its ongoing investigation. We encourage the reporting of clergy sex abuse to the Attorney General’s office by calling the established hotline at 844.324.3374.”
News 8 contacted the Coldwater Police Department to find out why charges were not brought following their investigation. Officers have not yet returned our calls.
According to Otsego Police Chief Gordon Konkle, charges were not filed when his department originally investigated because the priest and the victim said the restraining was part of an agreed punishment for a troubled boy with disciplinary problems.
Konkle says the boy’s parents also did not believe there was any wrongdoing on the part of the priest at the time of that investigation.
The teen was using marijuana and had poor grades and came to Stanley for help, he said.
Stanley’s bond was initially set at $100,000, but the judge reduced it to $5,000 at his arraignment, under the stipulation he has no contact with any minors.
If convicted, Stanley faces 15 years in prison and could be required to register as a sex offender. He is scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 29.