Lt. Benjamin Kulina stood before a bank of televisions at Mesa police headquarters Thursday as the evening news programs showed the priest who molested him 23 years ago pleading guilty.
“No amount of counseling can do what this has done for me,” said 39-year-old Kulina, a 15-year Mesa police veteran. “I feel like I got my sense of self back.”
John Maurice Giandelone, 55, on Thursday pleaded guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court to two counts of molesting Kulina between June 1979 and February 1980. A plea agreement calls for him to serve between nine and 22 months in prison. Sentencing is Feb. 7.
The deal also calls for him to cooperate with a grand jury investigating whether senior church officials in Phoenix conspired to obstruct justice and failed to properly report sexual abuse going back three decades. “His information and his cooperation to further our investigation into obstruction of justice is critical,” County Attorney Rick Romley said.
A spokesman for the Phoenix Diocese said Thursday night it was unfortunate that Kulina was victimized and expressed compassion to victims of sexual misconduct.
Giandelone was arrested in Florida last month after a Maricopa County grand jury indicted him on three counts of felony sexual abuse against Kulina, 16 at the time.
Kulina’s parents, Benedict and Peggy Kulina, have said that in 1980 they told senior church officials, including future Bishop Thomas J. OBrien, their son was being abused.
Despite the warnings, Giandelone was transferred to another parish, where he molested another minor.
Giandelone served jail time for the second offense. He left the priesthood in 1992, moved to Florida and married.
“I remember going with my parents and meeting O’Brien,” Kulina said. “You look back now and see the other incidents, and you wonder how this can happen.” O’Brien was diocese vicar-general in 1980 and was named bishop in 1981. He says he has no memory of meeting the Kulinas, and no record of the meeting exists.
Giandelone told investigators that he remembers O’Brien telling him he would be transferred after the Kulinas made their complaint.
Kulina said he had a difficult time going public.
“I don’t know if I repressed it or what, but I stuffed it,” said Kulina. “You don’t need to be a lifetime victim.”