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  Ex-Priest Accused in Ariz. Teen Sex Case

By Adam Kovac
News-Press (Fort Myers, FL)
December 4, 2002

A former Arizona priest and registered sex offender was arrested in Lee County on Tuesday and accused of having sex with a 15-year-old boy more than two decades ago, authorities said.

John Giandelone, 55, of 1141 Waterford Village Drive, Gateway, is charged with three counts of sexual misconduct while he was ordained in the Diocese of Phoenix in 1979 and 1980.

He is in the Lee County Jail awaiting extradition to Maricopa County, Ariz.

Giandelone allegedly had the teenager, now a Mesa, Ariz. police lieutenant, perform oral sex on him while he was a priest at St. Joseph's Parish in Phoenix.

On another occasion, Giandelone allegedly had sexual intercourse with the boy, said Bill FitzGerald, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Tuesday's arrest comes amid an investigation into alleged church abuse cover-ups by the Phoenix diocese and now-Bishop Thomas O'Brien. Although the diocese had pledged to divulge all knowledge of priest abuse, authorities were unaware of the Giandelone incident until the victim came forward, FitzGerald said.

The victim, Ben Kulina, told police O'Brien arranged for Giandelone to transfer to St. Mary's Parish in Chandler, Ariz., shortly after the abuse. There, Giandelone resigned after he was convicted of performing oral sex on another 15-year-old boy in 1984.

Giandelone, who is married to Lee County Health Director Judith Hartner according to state records, served a year in jail and five years of probation for the 1984 conviction before moving to Florida, FitzGerald said.

Hartner came to Lee County in 1992 to accept the public health job. Giandelone registered with the Florida's sex offender data base in April 2000.

Attempts to contact Hartner for comment Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

Arizona police said they began investigating Giandelone about six months ago after Kulina revealed the alleged abuse. Kulina contacted Giandelone on several occasions to discuss the allegations, which were monitored by detectives in Maricopa County.

On Tuesday, Lee and Maricopa County detectives went to Giandelone's home and brought him back to sheriff's headquarters where he was questioned and arrested, King said.

Under Arizona law, the statute of limitations has expired for Kulina to pursue civil charges against Giandelone. However, authorities have seven years from the time they learn of a crime to seek criminal charges.

"It's not about money or revenge, it's about dealing with something that's been gnawing at his soul," said Dick Treon, Kulina's attorney.

"Nobody's ever been accountable for what was done to him and he wants to put closure in his life." Contact: akovac@news-press.com

 
 

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