Former U.P. priest pleads guilty to sex abuse, to serve minimum 8 years in prison

Michigan Live/April 22, 2021

By Justine Lofton

Ontonagon County, Michigan – A former Upper Peninsula priest pleaded guilty today to four counts of criminal sexual conduct, which will result in the harshest prison sentence thus far in the Michigan Attorney General’s clergy abuse investigation.

Gary Jacobs, 75, pleaded guilty in Ontonagon County on Thursday, April 22, to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, the attorney general’s office announced. He was facing four separate sexual abuse cases and his plea agreement required that he plead guilty to the highest charge in each case.

Jacobs faces a fifth case in neighboring Dickinson County where a similar plea agreement is planned; that hearing is set for May 3.

The charges in the five cases involved alleged sexual assaults between 1981 and 1984 in Ontonagon County and in early 1984 in Dickinson County when Jacobs worked for the Catholic Diocese of Marquette. Several charges involved a child between 13 and 16 and one charge involved a child younger than 13.

The plea agreement in the Ontonagon cases states that Jacobs will serve eight to 15 years in prison. He will be a lifetime registered sex offender for the first-degree counts; and will have Tier II registration for the second-degree charge. He will be required to attend sex offender counseling. He will have lifetime electronic monitoring upon release.

All victims – those involved in the cases and those who came forward since – will be allowed speak at Jacobs’ sentencing, set for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25, in Ontonagon County Circuit Court.

The case was investigated by the Michigan Attorney General’s clergy abuse investigation team. This plea agreement will result in the harshest prison sentence thus far in the Michigan Attorney General’s clergy abuse investigation.

Previously, former priests Patrick Casey and Brian Stanley pleaded guilty resulting in jail sentences of 45 and 60 days each, respectively.

“This plea agreement and subsequent prison time is the culmination of resolute work by our clergy abuse investigation team, but that work would not be possible without the courageous victims who came forward,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “This sentence will not erase the pain Mr. Jacobs inflicted on those who trusted him, but I hope our pursuit of justice can offer some sense of relief as their vulnerability led to this accountability.”

Jacobs is among 11 clergymen so far charged with sex crimes uncovered by the attorney general’s ongoing clergy abuse probe. The probe has also identified at least 454 accused priests and 811 victims.

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