Rape Confession Excluded From Criminal Sexual Conduct Trial

A recent Lansing case examined a fundamental privilege – the right to confess to a pastor. In People v. Bragg, a Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a Wayne County Circuit Judge decision that determined that a boy’s alleged confession that he raped a girl could not be admitted in a first-degree criminal sexual conduct trial against him.

Michigan criminal sexual conduct charges are serious. If you have been investigated for or are facing any charges for any Michigan sex crime it is important to consult with an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney immediately.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is one of Michigan’s most serious sex crimes. Criminal sexual conduct first degree involves some sort of penetration of the alleged victim, with one or more of the variables described in the statue MCL 750.250b.

If convicted, Bragg faces a 25-year mandatory jail term.

Here, Reverend John Vaprezsan of Metro Baptist Church in Belleville testified at a preliminary exam that Samuel Bragg, a 17-year-old parishioner had confessed to raping a 9-year-old girl two years earlier. The confession occurred in the pastor’s office. However, at trial the Reverend’s testimony was excluded as privileged.

On appeal, Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, joined by Judges Pat Donofrio and Patrick Meter agreed, distinguishing between the situations when a pastor learns of “ongoing or future criminal activity” and may be obligated to report it from when a parishioner discusses prior behavior – especially in the context of seeking penance. Conversations are privileged under Michigan law where a parishioner is seeking penance, even if they’re not in the form of formal confessions.

Pursuant to MCL 600.2156, a cleric is not permitted to ‘disclose’ certain statements made to him. Further, the conversation falls within the scope of privileged and confidential communications as defined by MCL 767.5a(2), as “necessary to enable Vaprezsan to serve as a pastor, because the defendant communicated with Vaprezsan in his professional character in the course of discipline enjoined by the Baptist Church.”


The court also determined that the fact that the boy’s mom was in the room didn’t waive the privilege.

For more information or if you have been charged with any Michigan sex crime, contact the top Michigan criminal defense law firm of Grabel & Associates for an immediate consultation.

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