Player's parents help craft plea bargain

Updated: February 22, 2005, 12:55 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – A priest pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Tuesday in the death of a University of Pittsburgh football player who fell through a church ceiling while drunk.

The Rev. Henry Krawczyk, who entered the plea on the day his trial was to begin, was sentenced to seven years' probation. The sentence was the maximum amount of probation the priest could have faced in the June 18, 2003, death of 19-year-old receiver Billy Gaines.

Gaines was legally drunk when he fell onto his head from more than 20 feet from a crawl space above the ceiling at St. Anne Church in a Pittsburgh suburb. Gaines, a former high school star from Ijamsville, Md., died about 20 hours later of head and spinal injuries.

Allegheny County prosecutors said Krawczyk, 52, was the only adult of legal drinking age at a cookout the priest hosted in the hours leading up to Gaines' fall.

Judge John Zottola imposed the sentence under a plea bargain crafted with the approval of Gaines' parents, Kimberly Ann and William Gaines, who didn't want the priest to go to jail. While on probation, Krawczyk won't be allowed to have private contact with anyone under 21 years of age.

Gaines' family has a $75 million suit pending against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, where Krawczyk is on administrative leave. They said the priest wasn't properly disciplined for past accusations involving alcohol and minors.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press