Accused Former Macomb County Priest Convicted of Drug Offense in 1985
By Jameson Cook
July 30, 2019
A former priest at a Shelby Township church accused of sexually assaulting a boy in the mid-1980s was arrested around that time for distributing and possessing cocaine.
Neil Kalina, 63, dressed in jail garb, appeared in 41A District Court in Shelby Township on Monday for a hearing on charges he assaulted a boy when he was 12 to 14 at St. Kieran Catholic Church.
He was among five priests charged in May for sexual-conduct allegations while serving at churches in Michigan as part of a special investigation under Attorney General Dana Nessel. Four of them were residing out of state.
Kalina is charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring.
He and the boy spent time together while Kalina was a pastor at Kieran during the mid-1980s, according to a sworn statement by Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Rick Lutz. Kalina allegedly provided the boy with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, and the boy awoke to Kalina fondling him during overnight stays at the St. Kieran rectory, the affidavit says.
Kalina's accuser attended Monday's hearing.
In 1985, Kalina was charged 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, according to Macomb County Circuit Court records.
Kalina was a resident at St. Kieran Parish and a weekend assistant at St. Ephrem Parish in Sterling Heights both from 1984-1986, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit. He moved to California in 1986 and left the ministry in 1993. He was operating a faith-based service program for at-risk young men when he was arrested in May in Littlerock, Calif. Allegations against him arose in 2017.
|Ron Kranz, now a former attorney for Neil Kalina, on Monday shows Judge Douglas Shepherd an envelope that Kalina said contained a letter to a supporter in the courtroom gallery at 41A District Court in Shelby Township.|
Kalina’s court-appointed attorney, Ron Kranz, on Monday told Judge Shepherd he was withdrawing from the case due to a “breakdown” between he and Kalina.
“There have been differences as to strategy, and there has been other differences,” Kranz said in court, adding he had planned to file legal motions regarding "speedy trial," polygraph examination and the statute of limitations.
The preliminary examination scheduled for Thursday was adjourned, and a probable-cause conference was set for Aug. 27 or 29, according to a court official. Kalina indicated he plans to retain an attorney.
During the hearing, Franz asked if Kalina could “pass a letter” to a courtroom spectator. But Shepherd denied the request after a sheriff’s deputy indicated that would violate policy. The letter must be mailed, the deputy said.
Two supporters of Kalina conferred with Kranz for nearly a half hour after the hearing. One of them, a man who did not want to be identified, said he befriended Kalina when he was at St. Kieran and remains a friend and supporter.
“I don’t think he is the type of person who would’ve done something like this,” said the man, his voice choking. “He insists he hasn’t done this.”
|Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark in the hallway Monday at 41A District Court in Shelby Township.|
Kalina has offered to undergo a polygraph examination, Kranz said. Kalina wants to have one administered by someone connected to the Macomb County Jail. But Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark objected in court, saying an examiner associated with the state should administer it since he had a public defender representing him, and her office is prosecuting the case.
Kalina remains held in the county jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond.
In all, five priests face 21 criminal counts. Two of the other charges priests include two from the Lansing Diocese and one each the Detroit and Kalamazoo dioceses.
The state also on May 15 suspended the educationally limited counselor's license of a sixth priest, Lawrence Ventline of Port Austin, who has Macomb County connections.
He is accused by the Attorney General's Office of raping an 11-year-old male student at an unnamed Catholic parish and school in Oakland County during the 1989-90 school year in the church "sacristy," a private room priests use for preparations, according to the administrative complaint.
Ventline has not been charged with a crime. A published reported indicated the statute of limitations prevented officials from filing charges.
Ventline denied the allegations in a letter in the online edition of the Huron Daily Tribune and accused his accuser of "slander."
"I am the victim here," he says in the letter published June 27. "The abuse I endured at the hands of a criminal who made up this lie will be arrested. (sic)"
In a June 30 posting on his Facebook page, he said of Nessel: "Anti-Catholic bias is her motivation."
In another publication, Ventline vowed to sue Nessel.
In 2016, the Archdiocese restricted Ventline from public ministry after learning of the rape accusation.
Ventline also is accused of violating other parts of the Public Health Code. The complaint says he suffers from "ongoing mental health problems that were exacerbated by the stresses of providing counseling services." In February 2017, he was not compliant with his physician's recommendations treatment; the same physician recommended he retire "for his mental and physical well-being," the complaint says. "Despite these recommendations, (Ventline) continues to provide non-secular counseling services."
In September 2018, Ventline falsely claimed in a newspaper ad he is "Dr. Ventline Ph.D." and failed to indicate he has an educationally limited license, the complaint says.
The state says Ventline will be given a chance to show compliance.
Ventline was a parochial vicar at St. Rene Goupil Parish in Sterling Heights in 1979-1981; a parochial vicar at St. Anne Parish in Warren in 1992-94; and an administrator at St. Mark Parish in Harsens Island in St. Clair County in 1996-1997. Ventline has not been assigned to a full-time parish ministry for nearly 20 years.