|Disgraced Priest Sentenced in Abuse
Admitted to Misdeeds with Two Boys at Clinic
By Margaret McHugh
September 22, 2007
A Catholic priest who became a social worker after the church removed him from duty was sentenced yesterday to 300 hours of community service and five years probation for his guilty pleas to child abuse.
The Rev. Richard Mieliwocki, 60, of Madison, last month admitted committing misdeeds in 2004 with two teenage boys at Daytop New Jersey, a drug treatment center in Mendham.
Mieliwocki had been charged with more serious offenses against four Daytop clients, but the prosecution's case disintegrated after one of the boys died of a drug overdose and the other partially recanted.
"The case literally fell apart," Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Meg Rodriguez said. Rodriguez said she hated to think that it appeared Mieliwocki was only getting a slap on the wrist.
But Mieliwocki had to forfeit his social worker license, and he can never hold public office.
Defense attorney Thomas C. Pluciennik said both he and Mieliwocki believe Mieliwocki didn't do anything criminal. Mieliwocki, however, didn't want to take the risk of having to convince a jury that his counseling techniques were acceptable, Pluciennik said.
While Superior Court Judge Salem Ahto called Mieliwocki's actions despicable, he noted receiving numerous letters from supporters regarding the good he had done in his life.
Mieliwocki had no prior criminal record, but he has a history of facing accusations of inappropriate behavior. The Archdiocese of Newark placed him on administrative leave in 1994 after finding he had committed sexual misconduct against two men at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange.
Mieliwocki fell off the church's radar screen for years, and in the meantime, became a social worker.
In June 1999, Mieliwocki avoided having his social worker license suspended for inappropriate behavior at a Clifton mental health facility by agreeing to weekly monitoring for three years.
His probation didn't come to the attention of his next employer, Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen, until two years after he began working at a group home for troubled youths in Bernards Township. He was fired, and then hired at Daytop.
Daytop officials didn't know about Mieliwocki's murky past -- or even that he was a priest -- until after his arrest in December 2004. He was accused of molesting and making sexual comments to four boys, ages 16 to 18, during therapy sessions between March and December of 2004.
Mieliwocki admitted that when a 17-year-old boy came to him concerned he might be gay, Mieliwocki questioned him about who he thought about while masturbating "to reassure him that he was not gay," Pluciennik said.
Mieliwocki strip-searched another 17-year-old as directed by his superior, but didn't have another person in the room as required, Pluciennik said.
Margaret McHugh can be reached at email@example.com or (973) 539-7119.
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