Ex-Priest Indicted in Daytop Sex Abuse
Madison Resident Charged with Endangering 4 Teen Boys in Rehab

By Peggy Wright
Daily Record [New Jersey]
August 10, 2005

Richard J. Mieliwocki was indicted on charges of sexual misconduct.

A former Roman Catholic priest whose whereabouts were unknown to the Archdiocese of Newark for a decade was indicted Tuesday on charges of sexual misconduct with four male teenagers he counseled as a social worker last year at Daytop-NJ in Mendham.

A Morris County grand jury handed up an indictment that charges Madison resident Richard J. Mieliwocki, 58, with three counts of child endangerment and five counts of criminal sexual contact that all relate to alleged sexual interaction Mieliwocki had with four youths between the ages of 16 and 18 at the prestigious, in-patient substance abuse rehabilitation facility.

While entrusted with counseling the youths -- including three who were on court-ordered probation -- Mieliwocki asked three about the size of their genitals and whether they masturbated. He allegedly touched the buttocks of one youth, the genitals of a second, and got a third teenager to remove his clothing and then spanked the boy's bare buttocks, court documents state.

The encounters spanned from March 8 to Dec. 6, 2004. Mieliwocki was arrested on Dec. 28 after Daytop's vice president and Executive Director, Rev. Joseph Hennen, personally called Morris County Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio to report information about inappropriate conduct by Mieliwocki during one-on-one counseling sessions.

Mieliwocki, who is free on $50,000 bail, hung up the telephone when reached at home Tuesday. His attorney was not available for comment. He will be required to appear in Superior Court, Morristown, within the next few weeks for arraignment on the indictment.

Mieliwocki was ordained in 1972 as a Roman Catholic priest and as of 1994 was assigned to the Archdiocese of Newark. He worked as a priest at St. Joseph the Carpenter Church in Roselle. A sexual abuse allegation was made against him in 1994 and he was put on leave and ordered to undergo counseling when an archdiocese response team found the allegation to be credible, said James Goodness, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Mieliwocki stopped treatment and his whereabouts were unknown to the archdiocese until he was charged in December with misconduct at Daytop. Goodness said that Mieliwocki is gone from church ministry, cannot represent himself or act in the capacity of a priest, and is considered a former priest of the archdiocese.

When he walked away from the church without following through with therapy, Mieliwocki turned to other work.

Put on probation

For most of the last 10 years, he worked as a licensed social worker in the state and for about two years at Daytop. Daytop officials, however, were not aware when they hired Mieliwocki that his social work license was put on probation in June 1999 for three years by the state Board of Social Work Examiners. By the time he applied to work full-time at Daytop, his license was valid and active, and checks with a few of his previous employers did not reveal any problems, Hennen has said.

Mieliwocki originally had faced a three-year social work license suspension in 1999 but instead reached an agreement with the state that allowed for his license to be put on probationary status. He had to submit to weekly supervision at his worksite, complete 12 credits of education courses, and pay the state $4,332 to cover penalties and investigative costs.

The probation arose from a complaint against Mieliwocki while he was employed as a staff clinician at Clifton Mental Health Service, a division of Service Centers of New Jersey in Clifton. He was assigned to work with a young male on a weekly basis from October 1996 through January or February 1997.

During that time, Mieliwocki handed the youth a 35mm film canister that contained white capsules, knowing the client had a history of steroid use. Mieliwocki told the youth the pills "were black market drugs that would both stimulate him sexually and serve to relax him," according to a consent order on file with the state.

Sleeping pills

The pills actually were melatonin, a natural hormone that induces sleep. The consent order further states that Mieliwocki tried to counsel the youth in Clifton "in the realm of sex therapy," which was beyond the scope of his training and not part of the youth's treatment plan, the consent order said.

After leaving Clifton Mental Health Service, Mieliwocki went to work between 2000 and 2002 for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Metuchen, at its group home for troubled adolescents in Liberty Corner, called Cedar House. He then went to work for Daytop.

Hennen said Tuesday that no youths undergoing treatment at Daytop departed after Mieliwocki's arrest and a meeting was held with all parents to apprise them of the charges. The facility immediately instituted changes in December, including more stringent background checks on new hires and replacing solid doors on counseling rooms with doors fitted with windows.

"Other than the trauma of having such a person in our facility, the after-effects were really minimized," Hennen said.