Witness: Priest Boasted Drinking Prowess

Associated Press
October 2, 2003

A Roman Catholic priest accused in the alcohol-related death of a college football player had dozens of bottles of liquor on hand and boasted he could match his student guests drink for drink, a teammate testified.

Five witnesses testified Wednesday during a hearing to determine whether an involuntary manslaughter charge should be reinstated against the Rev. Henry Krawczyk in the June 18 death of University of Pittsburgh receiver Billy Gaines.

In dismissing that charge last month, a deputy coroner ruled that Gaines' death was an accident and that Krawczyk could not have predicted that after drinking at a church gathering, the 19-year-old player would fall through the church ceiling while exploring a crawl space. Gaines died of head injuries.

On Wednesday, one of Gaines' teammates, John Simonitis, testified that the 50-year-old priest had 70 bottles of liquor and bragged about his drinking prowess.

"He said he could take me shot for shot," Simonitis said.

Allegheny County Judge Robert Gallo, who presided over the hearing, did not say when he would rule on reinstating the manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Two other charges against Krawczyk remain - reckless endangerment and furnishing alcohol to minors.

Krawczyk's attorneys have argued that prosecutors are trying to hold the priest to a higher standard and have muddled the morality and legality his actions. They argue that all charges against Krawczyk should be dismissed.

He resigned as pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Homestead, a Pittsburgh suburb, after the accident.

Gaines' family has filed a $75 million civil lawsuit alleging that church officials knew that Krawczyk had been accused of giving alcohol to minors, and of making sexual advances toward a minor, but had not been disciplined or removed from his position.


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