Feb. 22, 2005
SportsLine.com wire reports

PITTSBURGH -- A Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years' probation Tuesday for giving alcohol to a University of Pittsburgh football player who died after falling through a church ceiling while drunk.

Billy Gaines' death is the subject of lawsuits. (AP)
The Rev. Henry Krawczyk was the only adult of legal drinking age at a cookout he hosted in the hours before the death of 19-year-old receiver Billy Gaines. A witness said Gaines had eight glasses of rum and Coke plus a shot of liquor at the party, held on church grounds.

Krawczyk, 52, entered his guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and furnishing alcohol to minors on the day his trial was to begin.

Gaines and another team member had been exploring an attic crawl space at the church when he fell onto his head from a height of more than 20 feet.

Reading from a statement in court, Krawczyk called the death a tragedy but said he was comforted because he believed Gaines was now with Jesus Christ, and that he counted Gaines as his friend.

Gaines' mother, Kimberly Gaines, cried after hearing the statement.

"I don't want to be judgmental, but I don't want him to be pledging to be our friend," she said. "He's not our friend. He's responsible for my son's death -- but he never said he was sorry, he never said he was responsible for it."

The family is suing Krawczyk, the diocese and other Roman Catholic entities, contending the priest was not properly disciplined for past accusations involving alcohol and minors.

Krawczyk's defense attorney, Robert Stewart, said he advised the priest not to say anything in court, in part because of the lawsuit.

The judge imposed the sentence under a plea bargain approved by Gaines' parents, who didn't want the priest to go to jail.

The sentence was the maximum amount of probation the priest could have faced. While on probation, Krawczyk will not be allowed to have private contact with anyone under 21 years of age.

The Associated Press News Service

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