Elderly nun gets jail time in sex case

Other News Materials 2 February 2008 03:34 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- A 79-year-old nun was sentenced Friday to one year in a county jail for sexually abusing two teens when she was their principal four decades ago.

Sister Norma Giannini avoided a trial by pleading no-contest in November to two felony counts of indecent behavior with a child.

"I ask forgiveness from the bottom of my heart," she told Circuit Judge M. Joseph Donald at her sentencing.

One of Giannini's accusers, James St. Patrick, 55, asked Donald to impose a longer sentence. After the hearing, he said he was angry.

"When are we going to start dealing with female rapists and give them the same sentence as male rapists?" he asked.

In addition to the year behind bars, Giannini was ordered to serve 10 years of supervised probation. She has 60 days to report to jail.

The other accuser, Gerald Kobs , also 55, sobbed as he told the judge the abuse left him suicidal and emotionally withdrawn.

"It's going to take a while to have a reaction," he said after the sentencing. "I'm just glad it's over."

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual assault, but the two men said they wanted to speak out.

They told authorities they had dozens of sexual encounters with Giannini , including intercourse, while attending St. Patrick's School in Milwaukee during the 1960s, according to a criminal complaint. Giannini taught eighth grade and served as principal at the school.

Assistant district attorney Paul Tiffin had asked the judge to sentence Giannini to eight years in prison. Afterward, he declined comment except to say the sentence was "fair."

Prosecutors had asked for more than $28,000 in restitution, mainly for therapy costs, but the judge noted Giannini had taken a vow of poverty 60 years ago and had virtually no assets.

Donald urged Kobs and St. Patrick to sit down with Giannini and confront her with the emotional trauma she caused. But St. Patrick bristled at the idea of a face-to-face meeting.

"She hasn't called me for 40 years, she raped me, and now I'm supposed to call her and hang out with her," he said.

A psychologist told prosecutors in 2006 that Giannini identified four other victims to an Archdiocese of Milwaukee panel. The three were in Milwaukee and one was in Chicago, where she worked before and after her stint in Wisconsin, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

No charges in those cases have been filed.

Giannini , a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, went on to work in Illinois from 1970 to 1994.

Sheila King, a spokeswoman for the order Sisters of Mercy of the Chicago Regional Community, said she could not confirm the existence of additional victims because the sister who was president at the time of those allegations was not available.

The current president, Sister Betty Smith, assumed her title in 2006.

"On behalf of the Sisters, I express profound regret for the pain experienced by these two men and their families and anyone else touched by this situation," Smith said in a statement released after the sentencing.

Giannini , who lives with other Sisters of Mercy in a Chicago suburb, has been retired from active work for five years because of failing health, Smith has said. Giannini received extensive counseling at a St. Louis treatment facility after the order "learned of the situation" during the 1990s.

She has been closely monitored and separated from minors since then, according to Smith.