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John Sweeney, a Roman Catholic priest, stands accused of forcing a ten-year-old boy to give him a blow job.
A now-retired Roman Catholic priest is accused of forcing a 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy to perform oral sex on him after counseling the 4th-grader about misbehaving on a school bus.
The state attorney general’s office said Monday that the Rev. John Thomas Sweeney committed felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse against the boy at St. Margaret Mary Elementary School in Lower Burrell.
Prosecutors say the alleged assault occurred during the 1991-92 school year, and that the boy was given milk and cookies afterward.
The Greensburg Diocese says the 74-year-old Sweeney was removed as pastor of Holy Family Parish in West Newton in 2016 after church officials learned of the allegation.
Court and diocese officials were unable to identify a defense lawyer for Sweeney. Sweeney made no comment to reporters when he turned himself in.
Sweeney continued in ministry as a priest for approximately 16 years after abusing the victim and was in contact with children on a regular basis.
The alleged assault happened in a conference room next to Sweeney’s office after the fourth-grader was sent to Sweeney for discipline because he had been disruptive on a school bus, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
“After Sweeney finished sexually assaulting the 10-year-old boy, Sweeney’s parish secretary brought the boy milk and cookies,” Shapiro said.
The alleged victim now serves in the U.S. Coast Guard. Shapiro commended him for coming forward with his allegation.
“This courageous young man found his voice, and brought that voice before the grand jury. Now our job is to follow through,” Shapiro said.
Citing the ongoing investigation, the diocese declined to comment on Sweeney’s arrest.
In addition to Lower Burrell, Sweeney’s parish assignments between 1970 and 2008 included Holy Family in Latrobe, Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg, Saint Hedwig in Smock, Saint Mary in Freeport, Saint James in Apollo and Holy Family in West Newton.
His arrest is part of “a broader investigation into sexual abuse by priests,” said Shapiro, who asked the public for more help to identify alleged abusers and their victims.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on December 21, 2018:
A Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to 11½ months to five years in prison Friday morning after pleading guilty in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the early 1990s.
The Rev. John T. Sweeney, a Roman Catholic priest with the Diocese of Greensburg, was given the maximum allowable sentence by Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio.
“You perpetrated a horrific act on a 10-year-old boy,” Judge Bilik-DeFazio told the priest at the sentencing.
Sweeney, 76, had admitted to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy during the 1991-92 school year. He was a pastor at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Lower Burrell at the time.
He pleaded guilty in August to indecent assault on a minor under 14 years old. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, which was pleaded down from a previous felony charge.
After sentencing, Sweeney was handcuffed behind his back and escorted out of the courtroom by officers for immediate incarceration.
Lower Burrell police started the investigation of Sweeney after receiving an anonymous report and then one from a U.S. marshal who identified himself as a relative of the victim. The police referred the case to a statewide grand jury.
According to the criminal complaint, the school principal sent the boy to see Sweeney due to misbehavior on a school bus. The priest forced the victim to give him oral sex, warning the boy that he would be in trouble if he didn’t comply, according to the criminal complaint.
Judge Bilik-DeFazio issued her sentence after hearing the victim’s brother give statements on his own and his brother’s behalf, describing the devastation of the assault.
The judge was unmoved by Sweeney’s own apology and plea for leniency, and by similar appeals by two longtime friends, including a retired judge who said Sweeney had otherwise been a “perfect priest.”
“It certainly sounds to me, Mr. Sweeney, that you have had a very positive impact on many lives,” the judge said. But that didn’t mitigate his devastating impact on another life, she said.
“You, sir, abused your authority” and “your position of trust,” she said. “A 10-year-old boy was punished for misbehaving in school in such a horrific way.”
“You have walked this earth the last 27 years in full liberty,” Judge Bilik-DeFazio said in bringing that freedom to an end for a while.
The fact that he got away with it for so long left the judge unmoved by Sweeney’s claims to be suffering from ailments of old age, including cataracts and digestive problems.