A man who once worked as a pastor at two local churches learned Wednesday that he must spend at least the next 46 years in prison for sex crimes he committed against his ex-wife while they were married.
At about 2 p.m. in Tuscola County Circuit Court, Judge Amy Grace Gierhart sentenced 37-year-old Brad Joseph Gniewek, of Cass City, to nine terms of 23 to 60 years in prison – one term for each of nine counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct that he was convicted of.
Two of the sentences are to be served consecutively, while the other seven are to be served concurrently. Which means short of a successful appeal, Gniewek will spend the next 46 to 120 years in prison. Gierhart gave Gniewek credit for 58 days already served.
“This is one of the most heinous and horrendous crimes I’ve seen in 24 and a half years of practice,” Gierhart said before handing down her sentence. “The level of abuse that has been perpetrated on the victim by you, her former husband, is (horrific).”
On Jan. 11, a nine-man, three-woman jury found Gniewek guilty of nine counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. During the trial, Gniewek told the court he lives in Minnesota, but spent most of 2002 through 2017 living in the Thumb area. He was accused of committing the assaults against his wife prior to the couple’s divorce in August 2015. Gniewek was arraigned on the charges in January 2018. He had been free on bond since shortly after his arraignment, but bond was revoked and Gniewek was taken to the Tuscola County Jail following his Jan. 11 conviction.
By definition, first-degree criminal sexual conduct involves penetration.
From about 2008-09 to about 2011, Gniewek worked as a pastor at Novesta Church of Christ, 2896 Cemetery Road in Novesta Township, according to a church official.
“We parted ways,” the official said.
Gniewek also spent time as a pastor at Mooretown Brethren in Christ Church in Sandusky. An official with Mooretown told The Advertiser that Gniewek was a pastor with the church from 2014 until being “removed” from the position in 2017.
Gniewek’s attorney, William Amadeo, told the court at the sentencing that his client continues to profess his innocence.
Gierhart said Gniewek’s lack of ability to show remorse factored into her sentencing decision.
“You’ve shown no evidence you can be rehabilitated,” Giehart said. “You are a violent and sadistic abuser who has masqueraded as a servant of god for too long.”
Gniewek read a prepared statement to the court, asking Gierhart to “show me mercy and grace. Putting me in prison doesn’t positively effect anything.”
Assistant Prosecutor Erica Walle, who handled the case for the state, told the court that Gniewek is “nothing but a monster and pure evil, your honor.”
The victim testified for about eight hours during the trial. She said that rape was common in their relationship, as was physical and mental abuse of not just her, but she and Gnieweks’ five children.
“I couldn’t even make the tiniest decision without asking him. I was terrorized. I was held captive,” the victim said Thursday during a victim-impact statement. “He found pleasure in causing pain to his family. I lived all those years in a nightmare. Most of the time we had no idea what he was even angry about.”
Gniewek’s primary attorney, Howell-based Bill McCririe, contended during the trial that the victim fabricated the sexual assault charges. McCririe was not at Wednesday’s sentencing.
The trial originally was scheduled for December, but a mistrial was declared on Thursday, Dec. 20, by Gierhart – two days into the trial – after a witness made a statement while testifying that was not admissible.
After the mistrial was declared, Walle told the court that while she was explaining the decision to the victim, and her family and friends, outside the courtroom, Gniewek walked by and glared at the victim. Walle described the look as an “evil smirk,” after which Gniewek said “Merry Christmas” to the victim and her supporters.
“He said that knowing he had won that round,” Walle said. “But he didn’t win Round 2.”
Before dismissing the court room following her sentencing decision Wednesday, Giehart addressed Gniewek one last time.
“Merry belated Christmas Mr. Gneiwek, court dismissed,” she said.