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Ex-Priest Admits Sex Abuse of Phx. Teen

As Part of A Plea Agreement In The 20-Year-Old Case, He Will Cooperate With A Probe of Obstruction of Justice

Jan 10, 2003 | AP

A former Catholic priest pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he sexually abused a teenager here more than 20 years ago.

As part of a plea agreement, John Maurice Giandelone will cooperate with authorities investigating alleged acts of criminal misconduct and obstruction of justice by representatives and employees of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

Bishop Thomas O'Brien has already acknowledged that about 50 priests, former priests and church employees have been accused of criminal sexual misconduct with minors in the diocese over the past three decades.

Giandelone, 55, was arrested Dec. 3 in Fort Myers, Fla., and later extradited to Arizona.
He was accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy at least three times between June 1979 and February 1980 while he was a priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Phoenix.

The victim, Benjamin Kulina, is now a 39-year-old police officer in Mesa who said he told authorities about his abuse case after other alleged victims came forward in recent months. The Associated Press has a policy against releasing the names of sexual abuse victims, but Kulina has spoken publicly about the abuse several times.

In a statement yesterday, Kulina said he and his parents support the plea agreement for Giandelone, but he declined further comment until the sentencing phase of the case.

Giandelone pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual conduct. A third count was dismissed.
He faces up to 1.87 years in prison plus three years' probation and a $150,000 fine when he's sentenced Feb. 7.

Ordered held without bond until sentencing by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Schwartz, Giandelone declined to speak with reporters as he was led back to his jail cell.
His attorney, Michael Terribile, also declined comment.

Authorities said Giandelone was transferred to St. Mary's Church in Chandler in the 1980s and while there was caught sexually abusing another 15-year-old boy, according to authorities.

Court records show Giandelone spent six months in jail for that incident and eventually moved to Florida, where he registered as a sexual offender in 2000.

Giandelone was one of two Phoenix-area priests charged in early December for decades-old alleged sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, sex abuse charges against the Rev. Patrick O. Colleary were dismissed after a 24-year-old police report surfaced, bringing an old statute of limitations into play.

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