Appeals court upholds molestation convictions of former Shelby Twp. priest

Macomb Daily [Sterling Heights MI]

April 13, 2024

By Jameson Cook

Court orders resentencing due to mistake that may have led to higher term

The convictions of a former Macomb County priest for molesting a teenage boy has been upheld by the state Court of Appeals, though he was ordered to be resentenced due to a judicial error.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel applauded the affirmation of the convictions of Neil Kalina, 68, who was found guilty by a Macomb Circuit Court jury of two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for his actions in 1984 involving a 14-year-old boy whose family attended St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township, where Kalina worked. Second-degree sexual conduct involves contact.

“I am proud of the work of our prosecutors to secure these sentences against sexually abusive former priests within the Catholic church,” Nessel said. “To see these convictions withstand appellate scrutiny reinforces my appreciation of their efforts.”

Kalina was one of 11 clergymen charged by the Nessel’s clergy abuse investigation team. Convictions have been secured in nine cases involving 38 victims, according to the AG.

The court also ruled that Judge Diane Druzinski shouldn’t have taken into account Kalina’s alleged acts related to a first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge in sentencing him becasue he was acquitted of that charge. First-degree sexual conduct involves penetration.

Druzinski sentenced Kalina to the top of the guideline range, calling the former priest a “horrible person” who should never “see the light of day.”

Among objections to the convictions, Kalina’s appellate attorney asked for reversals because his trial attorney, David Heyboer, didn’t object to the jury seeing a reference to a youth’s suicide on an intake form that was presented at the trial.

But the appeals judges said the mishap was minor and didn’t effect the outcome.

“The evidence, when excluding the intake form, overwhelmingly supports defendant committed the crimes at issue in this case,” the judges wrote. “Thus, counsel’s failure to object to the brief reference to suicide in the intake form does not undermine our confidence in the outcome at trial.”

Neil Kalina - Michigan Department of Corrections Photo
Neil Kalina – Michigan Department of Corrections Photo

Kalina committed the illicit contact with the teen in the St. Kiernan rectory. He worked under the Archdiocese of Detroit, although he was ordained in 1981 for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, which is a religious order that operates separately from the AOD.

The complaining witness first disclosed the conduct by Kalina to his mother in 1991 when he was 21 and then again to his soon-to-be wife around 2001 before they married in 2002. His wife contacted the Attorney General’s Office.

Kalina also supplied the victim and several other teens with drugs and alcohol while he served as a priest from 1982 to 1985.

“You abused every ounce of authority in your priest position to groom them, to manipulate them, to give them alcohol, cocaine, and then abuse them,” Druzinski said at his sentencing.

For supplying drugs to the teens, Kalina was charged in 1985 with three felony drug offenses, including possession and distribution of under 50 grams of cocaine. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of under 50 grams of cocaine and was sentenced in 1986 to six months in jail and two years probation.

After he served his time in the drug case, Kalina moved to California and left the ministry in 1993. He traveled around the world on missionary work. He was extradited from California in 2019 to face the sexual-conduct charges here.

Kalina is serving his sentence at the Cooper Street Correctional Facility in Jackson.