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Official says cleric covered up sex abuse

©Associated Press

December 4, 2002

PHOENIX -- Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien once advised the family of a teenage boy who allegedly was sexually abused by a priest in 1979 and 1980 not to contact authorities, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

O'Brien, who was a priest but not a bishop at the time, told the family then that going to authorities would only cause the victim more harm, said Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

Romley made the allegations during a news conference to announce that the former priest, John Giandelone, 55, has been charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor stemming from the incidents.

Giandelone was arrested Tuesday in Fort Myers. He was awaiting extradition and couldn't be reached for comment.

Romley said he didn't know whether O'Brien will face charges in the alleged coverup.

Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix didn't return a message left Tuesday by the Associated Press. A greeting on the diocese voice mail system said the staff was away.

Romley said Giandelone allegedly sexually abused Ben Kulina, who was then 15, while Giandelone was a priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Phoenix.

The AP has a policy of not identifying sex abuse victims, but Kulina, now 39, allowed his attorney to release his name to the media.

Romley said that shortly after the alleged abuse, Kulina notified his youth counselor about what had happened. The youth counselor told O'Brien, who then told the family not to notify authorities, Romley said.

Giandelone was transferred to another church in Chandler. While there, a man allegedly caught Giandelone having oral sex with his 15-year-old son, Romley said. The father contacted authorities, and Giandelone resigned and eventually moved to Florida.

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