The first person to be criminally charged in a nine-month investigation into possible sexual misconduct of priests and employees of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix was given the maximum sentence of 22 months in prison and three years probation on Wednesday.
Ex-priest John Giandelone, formerly of parishes in Chandler and Phoenix, could be freed as early as November because he was sentenced under 1979 laws, which allow for one day of early release for each day of good behavior, his attorney said. Most crimes today require an inmate to serve at least 85 percent of a sentence before early release.
Giandelone's victim, Ben Kulina, now 39 and a lieutenant with the Mesa Police Department, said he supported the plea deal prosecutors gave Giandelone, but he believed the sentence was too lenient when compared to the years of emotional damage he's endured.
"People like you need to realize that your victims eventually grow up," Kulina said, facing Giandelone as he sat at the defense table in Maricopa County Superior Court. "These same victims become lawyers, doctors, teachers and in my case, a policeman. Time passes but they never really ever forget.
A woman at the table consoled Giandelone, who bowed his head as Kulina returned to speaking to the judge.
When it came Giandelone's turn to speak, he apologized.
"You have every right in the world to be angry with me," Giandelone said. "I hope you can forgive me, for your sake and mine."
Giandelone pleaded guilty in January to two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and agreed to help prosecutors in their investigation of the diocese.
Wednesday was Giandelone's second time before a judge in connection with molesting a teenager.
He was placed on probation in 1984 and spent one year in jail for molesting a 15-year-old at the Chandler parish. Kulina contends that is where Bishop Thomas O'Brien transferred Giandelone after Kulina and his family reported the priest in 1980 to the church leader, who was then second in command in the diocese.
Giandelone's attorney, Michael Terribile, said his client didn't deserve the maximum sentence because he complied with probation and got counseling and moved on to become a productive citizen after his first conviction.
Terribile said authorities in 1984 also knew of the 1979 incidents with Kulina even though they didn't have the victim's name, but they still let Giandelone go forward with the plea deal.
"He did everything they asked him to do after the last conviction in ’84 and then somehow that wasn't enough," Terribile said. "Somehow that gets twisted into, ‘Now we're going to hit you harder.’ ”
Kulina said he is now going to focus on getting state legislation passed that would change the time limits for child sexual molestation victims to file lawsuits.
Children who are molested have until their 20th birthday to file suit or they can file suit later if they can prove they were of "unsound mind" in the period from the incident to when they filed suit.
Kulina and his attorney, Dick Treon, are pushing SB1286, which would expand the definition of unsound mind to include people who have a psychological or emotional trauma that prevents them from suing.
The bill got unanimous approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee and is in the House of Representatives.