Observer-Reporter [Washington PA]
March 3, 2022
By Mark Hofmann
A former Fayette County priest was sentenced up to five years in prison Thursday for the sexual abuse of a minor nearly two decades ago.
Fayette County Judge Linda Cordaro sentenced Andrew Kawecki, 66, of Greensburg, to serve 2 1/2 to 5 years in a state prison on the single charge of indecent assault to a person less than 13 years of age.
In October, Kawecki pleaded no contest to that charge as a result of a plea agreement between the defense and the state attorney general’s office.
Kawecki served in several churches in the region between 1981 and 2016, including St. John the Baptist in Perryopolis, St. Sebastian in Belle Vernon, St. James in Maxwell, St. Julian in Isabella, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Leckrone, St. Hubert in Point Marion, St. John the Baptist in Scottdale and St. Joseph in Everson.
Kawecki abused Skyler Moncheck beginning in 2004 when Moncheck was 11 years old, and that abuse went on for over three years. At the time of Kawecki’s plea, Moncheck publicly identified himself, appearing at a press conference.
Moncheck was an altar boy at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Fairchance when the abuse occurred. Prosecutors said Kawecki repeatedly assaulted Moncheck in the back room of the church while preparing for Mass.
Kawecki was charged in August 2020 after Moncheck reported the abuse.
Moncheck offered a victim impact statement to the court prior to Kawecki’s sentencing, telling Cordaro about the impact the abuse had on his life.
“The most important thing in my life became forgetting the most terrible thing that happened in my life,” Moncheck said.
He said he lost any interest in wrestling, and then turned to alcohol when he was 15 years old to forget what had happened. Before he was 18, Moncheck said, he was abusing drugs and barely graduated from high school.
He went to college, but then dropped out.
Moncheck spoke how he attempted suicide on different occasions – once by hanging himself and another time with a large dose of heroin. He said his mother was there both times to save his life.
“I spent years in and out of jails, rehabs and psychiatric hospitals,” he said.
Moncheck got clean in 2015, but still harbors anger and anxiety from his years of abuse.
Citing the lifelong, profound effects of sexual abuse on all victims, Moncheck said abusers should spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye said even though the plea negotiations resulted in a no-contest plea to a less serious charge, it doesn’t minimize the gravity of the offenses.
“Only jail time is appropriate, only incarceration is appropriate,” Dye said.
Kawecki did not say anything prior to sentencing, but his attorney, Stephen Stallings, said the allegations against Kawecki are decades old with no physical evidence and no other witnesses other than the victim.
Stallings noted that Cordaro received multiple letters of support from Kawecki’s former parishioners and other supporters.
Since the charges were filed, Stallings said Kawecki had already been relieved of all his priestly duties, lost his career and has been the subject of public scorn and shame.
He added that a sentence of probation would be the type one would receive for indecent assault.
“Not only is it appropriate, but it certainly accomplishes any goals of the prosecution,” Stallings said.
Cordaro said indecent assault holds a maximum sentence of five years’ incarceration, but also noted with no prior record, Kawecki could be sentenced to nine to 12 months of probation.
“Considering the nature and the circumstances of this case, the court believes the guideline sentence is inappropriate,” Cordaro said.
She added that Kawecki’s actions caused a serious, life-long psychological harm to Moncheck as Kawecki abused his power and position as a trusted spiritual leader.
“He breached this trust in the most heinous way imaginable,” Cordaro said.
She continued to say she read every letter of support for Kawecki, and added that they provided insight into his character and how he has supported people over the years – many praising him for his kindness, generosity and compassion.
“I considered each and every letter of support, and I have no reason whatsoever to disbelieve any of them,” Cordaro said. “However, all of this support cannot trump the devastation he has caused in the life of one young boy.”
Once Kawecki’s prison term is over, he will have to serve three years of probation and register as a sex offender for 10 years. While on probation, he’s to have no contact with Moncheck.
“The bravery of this survivor helped us hold Andrew Kawecki accountable, and he will now go to prison for his unthinkable crimes,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a statement following the sentencing. “My office will continue to seek justice and accountability for those who use their position of power and trust to prey on their communities.”
Shaprio’s office asks anyone who is a victim of abuse or who has information about abuse to call 888-538-8541 to report it.