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Former Brighton priest enters plea to charges involving abuse in Ann Arbor area

A former priest who began his career in Livingston County has pleaded guilty to two counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct for abuse that occurred in the Ann Arbor area.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Thursday the plea that resulted from a hearing Wednesday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court involving 74-year-old Timothy Crowley.

“This plea will mark the ninth straight conviction by my department’s clergy abuse investigation team who have worked tirelessly on behalf of survivors in this state,” Nessel said. “We are grateful to have obtained some measure of justice on this matter and many others, further breaking down the walls of silence which often surround sexual assault and abuse.”   

Crowley, who had been a priest at St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor, was arrested in 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. Crowley began his priesthood at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Brighton in 1979 as an assistant chaplain before he moved a year later to a Flint parish.

In June 1982 he transferred to St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Jackson, where the abuse is allege to have begun involving a 10-year-old altar boy and is reported to have continued through his appointments as pastor at St. Anthony in Hillsdale and St. Thomas the Apostle in Ann Arbor. In 1993, according to a statement from the Lansing Diocese, he admitted his actions to Lansing Bishop Kenneth Povish. Crowley was then removed from ministry.

1993 was also the same year that a $200,000 settlement was made with the original victim, who was now an adult. The attorney general’s complaint says the victim was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement. Crowley then spent two years in a treatment program for priests in Alma, before taking a position with the diocese in Anchorage, Alaska. The Diocese of Lansing says the appointment was approved even though it warned the archdiocese in Alaska of the allegations. 

However, parishioners there didn’t know about Crowley’s past until his name was released in 2002 as part of a “zero-tolerance” policy adopted by American bishops. Crowley was then removed from the Anchorage archdiocese and defrocked. In 2003, the Diocese of Lansing says it shared information with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office regarding Crowley, but the prosecutor was “unable to bring charges” at that time.

The criminal case brought by the AG’s office was initially dismissed in 2019 after a preliminary examination, but the Attorney General’s office appealed and eventually prevailed in the Michigan Court of Appeals. 

The sentencing agreement includes serving five-years on probation and requires Crowley to spend the first year in jail, receive sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 8, 2023, at 1:30 pm in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

While it is not believed Crowley victimized anyone while at St. Pats in Brighton, the Attorney General’s clergy abuse investigation website remains open for tips as does a hotline at 844-324-3374.

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