GAYLORD — A state police investigation into inappropriate messages a northern Michigan priest sent to high school students found no foul play, according to Michigan’s attorney general.
A complaint alleging Father Bryan Medlin of Gaylord Diocese sent inappropriate text messages to high school students was sent to the Michigan Attorney General’s office on Dec. 10, as previously reported. An investigation by Michigan State Police and the AG’s office found no criminal behavior in Medlin’s conduct with the students. Nonetheless, investigators said Medlin sent “several” teenage boys and young men between the ages of 16 and 18 online and via messages containing sexual content and racially insensitive statements, according to records released Friday by the attorney general. from Michigan.
Recipients of these messages included high school students from St. Mary’s in Lake Leelanau and St. Francis High School in Traverse City.
Partially redacted documents, including interview notes and screenshots of text messages collected during the MSP investigation, show that Medlin made inappropriate comments to students in person, by text message and via social media platforms. social media, dating back to at least 2019. Former and current St. Mary’s students interviewed said Medlin discussed the female student body and said he would date female students if he was in high school, according to MSP reports .
The MSP investigation was led by State Police Detective Sgt. Mike Fink and State Trooper Andrea Tillman.
“While the allegations against the father. Medlin has not met the threshold for criminal behavior beyond a reasonable doubt, we appreciate the Diocese of Gaylord has referred this matter to our office for review,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a mailed statement. electronic. “We take all reports of sexual abuse seriously and are committed to being a safe haven for victims, thoroughly investigating available evidence and charging individuals, where possible.”
Documents released to the Record-Eagle by the AG’s office reveal that the message that sparked the investigation was sent to three St. Mary’s students at 9 p.m. on Nov. 18, months after Medlin was promoted from St. Mary’s at the Cross in the Woods National Shrine at Indian River in Cheboygan County.
In the post, Medlin calls his guidance to students “Holy and Horny Wisdom,” wishes the students good luck at an upcoming football game, offers them personal prayers, and advises them on what kind of sexual behavior is allowed in based on their team’s safety margin. victory in the game.
Medlin’s text talks about the “best topless bars downline” and says he’ll be back to “gtacs” for a confession. Other parts of the message include statements such as “Just go find a room and go crazy with your girlfriend” and “Attack your girlfriend to the floor (remove your pads) roll around the floor for 60 seconds”.
MSP investigators interviewed the three St. Mary’s students who received the message. The teenagers told investigators that Medlin sometimes sat with them at lunch and made inappropriate comments about women and girls, according to reports.
During the MSP investigation, the teens recounted a Medlin comment to students about cleavage, a joke about men having erections in the morning, and the priest saying he wished he was back in high school to to be able to hang out with high school students. .
Interview notes also indicate that the text message that sparked the investigation eventually circulated among students at St. Francis High School. A teacher at one of the schools overheard students talking about the message and reported it to the diocese, according to investigation records.
Screenshots of other text messages included in the reports show that Medlin uses a variety of explicit languages to send messages to students. Other messages obtained by investigators showed Medlin commenting to students about a “beautiful black woman” and worrying about a terrorist attack upon seeing a “group of Muslims”.
Not all of the messages given to investigators were profane, offensive or sexual in nature, but for some of the students interviewed, the frequency of Medlin’s correspondence and the timing – some were sent as late as 11:30 p.m. – was questionable, according to the MSP reports.
MSP investigators also interviewed a former student who said he wrote a letter to the diocese on behalf of his classmates and himself about Medlin’s behavior.
Another document shows that in 2019, a student sent a letter to the diocese complaining about Medlin’s behavior. The student said Medlin used profanity around students, made racially insensitive comments, called a student a “paper abuser” and shared a student’s confession.
The documents do not specify whether the former student interviewed by investigators is the same student who sent the 2019 letter.
Students said Medlin never made physical advances to them or made them physically uncomfortable and many students said they thought Medlin was making the comments he was making to look cool, according to MSP reports.
According to the “Protocols for Ministry to Minors and Vulnerable Adults” of the Diocese of Gaylord, clergy and adults employed by the diocese are prohibited from making comments of a sexual nature to minors outside of sanctioned classes and from communicating in one-on-one with minors electronically. Communication.
The age of the students who received the texts with sexual content is censored in the documents provided by the office of the AG.
The Diocese of Gaylord released an official statement on Thursday regarding the findings of the investigation. When asked to comment on the investigation on Friday, Mackenzie Ritchie, communications director for the Diocese of Gaylord, directed the Record-Eagle to Thursday’s statement.
The Diocese of Gaylord will now begin an internal review and investigation by Church authorities, according to Thursday’s statement. Medlin will not be laid off but will remain on administrative leave, the statement said.
“The safety and security of all those entrusted to our care, especially our young and most vulnerable, is of the utmost importance and we will continue to address inappropriate behavior and misconduct quickly,” Ritchie said in the statement. .
In September, Medlin was named pastor of the National Cross in the Woods Shrine at Indian River in Cheboygan County after spending time as pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Leelanau County. In August, Medlin was also named assistant vocations director for the diocese.
Vocation directors play a major role in recruiting teens and young adults to become future clergy. Their duties usually include visits to schools and parishes in their diocese to talk to young people.
Documents sent to the Record-Eagle by the attorney general’s office show that on December 10, Medlin refused to speak to police investigators, as advised by his attorney. Instead, Medlin sent a statement through his attorney.
“He corresponded with some former student athletes to keep in touch with school and sports programs, with the intention of promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life,” the statement said. “At no time was anything obscene or illegal discussed or transmitted, and Father Bryan completely denies any wrongdoing or criminal intent.”
Medlin’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.
Asked if the former bishop was aware of Medlin’s behavior prior to the investigation, Ritchie replied via text message: “It is addressed in our statement – when the messages were released to the diocese, the matter was was immediately referred to the Michigan Department of the Attorney General and the Michigan State Police for investigation.