Case against priest binding teen at Otsego church revived by AG

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

A Catholic priest was charged with binding a 17-year-old in an Otsego church basement in 2013, despite a local investigation at the time that pressed no charges.

This time around, the Michigan Attorney General’s office charged the Rev. Brian Lynn Stanley with unlawful imprisonment, a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and requires sex offender registration.

The 57-year-old Coloma man worked at St. Margaret Catholic Church briefly in 2013.

A press release from Attorney General Dana Nessel said, “Stanley 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 2013. Stanley reportedly immobilized the young man by wrapping him tightly in plastic (aka Saran) wrap, then used masking tape as additional binding and to cover his eyes and mouth. Stanley left the victim, bound and alone, in the janitor’s room for over an hour before returning and eventually letting him go.”

Otsego Police Chief Gordon Konkle said that squares with his department’s investigation at the time, but he said the teenager and his family fully supported Stanley.

“We were concerned; based on our interviews with the family the teenager, we investigated because we felt it was possible the boy was being groomed for something. It set off bells. But they maintained he had helped the boy and said he was innocent.”

He said the Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office decided not to press charges and the case was closed.

The AG press release said the new charges stemmed from researching files seized from the The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo in October 2018.

“The crime occurred in the fall of 2013, when Stanley was asked by the victim’s family to help counsel their son,” the release said. “It is apparent from Archdiocese records that Stanley had been engaging in this type of conduct with the binding materials for decades. This type of conduct is a sexually motivated crime.

Nessel said, “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.

“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.”

The diocese’s statement posted to its website said thye learned of Stanley’s arrest this morning and said they promptly reported the allegation to Child Protective Services, which then referred it to the Otsego police.

“We promptly placed Fr. Brian Stanley on administrative leave pending the outcome of the police investigation,” the diocese said. “According to the Otsego Police Department, ‘the complaint was not criminal and there would be no charges.’”

It said they learned of additional allegations involving Fr. Stanley four years later and reported them to Coldwater police. Again, no charges were filed.

“We placed Fr. Stanley on administrative leave from active ministry in January 2017,” the diocese said. “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.”

Of Otsego’s investigation, Konkle said today it was clear the diocese had investigated the matter.

“They’d done quite a bit of background work, interviewing their own employees,” Konkle said. “They were doing their part of it right.”

He said the AG’s office had not consulted Otsego on the case.

Stanley was arraigned Thursday, Aug. 22, for the Sept. 2, 2013, incident.

While bond was initially set at $100,000, Stanley requested it be reduced to $5,000 cash surety bond. Attorney Magistrate Daniel Norbeck agreed to that given the age of the case, but he noted concerns over his passport and told Stanley he was to have no contact with minors while out on bond.

Stanley said his passport was expired and the no-contact order would not be a problem.

A probable cause hearing in the case was set for Aug. 29 and a preliminary exam for Sept. 4, both before District Court Judge William A. Baillargeon.

The diocese said, “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.”

Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

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