SNAP responds to Cardelli sentencing

Our hearts go out to Cardelli’s victim. Cardelli’s strict prison sentence may offer her some small degree of healing, but unfortunately recovering from this sort of devastation can take a lifetime.

We urge anyone who sees, suffers, or suspects sexual abuse to find the courage to report their knowledge to police. Even the smallest tip can prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future.

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(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747,, Peter Isely (414-429-7259,, Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell,

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Cardelli gets 18 years in molestation case

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 08/23/2011 02:30:22 AM PDT

Despite a former Arcata pastor's pleas for probation, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge sentenced Dino Cardelli to the maximum prison sentence allowable Monday, charging that he essentially seduced his adopted daughter with Bible passages in order to molest her.

Arrested last September, Cardelli, 50, pleaded guilty June 22 to charges of the continual sexual abuse of a minor, child molestation, attempting to dissuade a witness and 25 counts of violating a court order not to contact his victim.

During an emotional two-hour court hearing, the court heard from one of two victims in the case -- identified as Jane Doe 1 -- and from Cardelli, and attorneys debated an appropriate sentence for Cardelli, who -- until his arrest -- had served as the pastor of Arcata's Calvary Chapel. He and his late wife opened the church in January 1995.

Judge Bruce Watson sentenced Cardelli to serve 18 years in prison, the maximum allowable under a plea agreement Cardelli reached with prosecutors the day his trial was slated to begin. Watson said he weighed both mitigating and aggravating factors in reaching an appropriate sentence for Cardelli but said the scale tilted heavily toward handing down the maximum sentence.

Watson said Cardelli took advantage of a vulnerable victim, a girl he'd adopted at the age of 5 and who was 13 when the acts of molestation began. The judge said Cardelli then repeatedly attempted to dissuade Jane Doe 1 from cooperating in the case. Watson said the former pastor also betrayed the trust and confidence of his daughter, his community and his congregation.

”He violated the trust of countless people,” Watson said.

A probation report in the case, quoted by Watson, also indicates that the pastor used the Bible to convince Jane Doe 1 to acquiesce to his advances.

”He talked her into a sexual relationship by reading her passages from the Bible he interpreted as condoning it,” Watson read from the report before later opining about it. “It seems very disturbing, as a pastor, to be using the Bible to induce the victim to participate -- in essence seducing her with Bible passages.”

Under the terms of the sentence Watson handed down Monday, Cardelli will serve at least 85 percent of his 18-year prison sentence, will be put on supervised parole for 20 years after his release and will have to register as a sex offender for life.

Cardelli's attorney M.C. Bruce repeatedly asked for a sentencing postponement and said after the hearing that his client plans to appeal the sentence.

When Jane Doe 1 addressed the court, she said Cardelli's decisions led to her being separated from her brothers and sisters. She said she also carries the burden of Nancy Cardelli's suicide, which occurred after the mother told numerous people she suspected her husband was having an inappropriate relationship with Jane Doe 1, then 13.

”I have felt much of the blame for my mother's death, and I've carried it too long,” Jane Doe 1 said, adding that she's contemplated suicide and that her innocence is gone. “It was not fair for the man who was supposed to be my father to take that away from me.”

Jane Doe 1 went on to say she will always love both her parents, including her father, who she said taught her how to “be a loving, virtuous woman of God, but I will never respect the decisions he made.”

In addressing the court, Dino Cardelli -- who showed no emotion during Jane Doe 1's remarks -- apologized to his family and especially to his victim.

”My actions caused this travesty and these horrible events,” he said, adding that his wrongdoing had also hurt the community and his church body. “I know what I've done is a horrible thing that's happened, and I know it's something that my daughter will have to live with for the rest of her life.”

Dino Cardelli displayed little emotion throughout his remarks, but choked up when describing how Jane Doe 1 will have to tell her future husband of the secrets in her past.

The former pastor asked that he be released on probation, saying he wanted to seek treatment and rejoin his community and that he posed no risk of re-offending.

In addressing the court, Bruce argued that -- if not probation -- his client should be sentenced to the minimum term of incarceration allowable under the deal.

”A sentence of eight years gives Jane Doe plenty enough time to grow and forget,” Bruce said.

The defense attorney further argued that much of the pain and stress experienced by Jane Doe 1 was due to media reporting of the case, saying his client had no control over what was written about her or what “newspapers have done to ruin her life.”

Bruce further argued that it is there is no evidence to connect Nancy Cardelli's suicide with the sexual relationship between her husband and her daughter.

”To inject that into this proceeding is a disservice to everyone,” he said, adding that Dino Cardelli and his wife were also going through emotional difficulties and marriage problems at the time Cardelli began his relationship with Jane Doe 1.

Prosecuting Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel argued that Dino Cardelli groomed a vulnerable little girl whom he'd adopted at the age of 5 to be the victim of his sexual advances. She said he's repeatedly failed to take responsibility for this, preferring to view his molestation simply as a romantic relationship. In the weeks before his arrest, Neel said, Dino Cardelli also molested another of his adopted daughters on three separate occasions.

Given the chance after posting bail in the case, Neel said, Dino Cardelli tried to talk Jane Doe 1 out of cooperating with authorities.

”What Mr. Cardelli can't deny is that he had ongoing sexual contact with a minor under the age of 14,” Neel said. “... The defendant, throughout these proceedings, has seemed to see this abuse -- what he was doing to this little girl -- as a romantic relationship.”

Ultimately, Neel said, Dino Cardelli left his daughters to carry this burden, for which there are no mitigating circumstances.

”What possible mitigating circumstances could there be for a 50-year-old man to molest his daughter? To molest two of his daughters?” she asked.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or

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