A Saginaw County Circuit Court jury has acquitted Robert DeLand Jr. of sexually assaulting two male teens. It was the first of three trials for Deland, a priest in the Diocese of Saginaw who was removed as pastor of St. Agnes Church in Freeland after the charges were filed last year. His ministry as a priest has been restricted and he is not allowed to present himself a priest until the legal proceedings have been resolved. The jury, made up of nine women and three men, deliberated for about two hours before delivering the verdict.

The current Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Bishop Walter Hurley, released the following statement:

“The not guilty decision regarding Rev. Robert DeLand by the jury today brings to resolution one part of a long and difficult process for all involved. We await the results of the continuing legal process. My hope, that as the criminal court process continues to evolve, a sense of peace and healing for all will be the final result. Because these matters are ongoing, I will refrain from making any additional comments until all the criminal proceedings are completed.”

Deland’s next trial will likely begin next week.