Former MHS volunteer drama coach sentenced for sexual assault

MORGANTOWN — A former Morgantown High School volunteer speech and drama coach will spend time in prison.
Daren Bieniek, 48, was sentenced by Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Russell Clawges to one-five years for one count of third-degree sexual assault. He was also given one-15 years for a count of distribution and exhibiting material showing minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, which was suspended for five years of probation after he serves the required time for third-degree sexual assault. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Clawges ordered Bieniek have no contact with any of his victims – including the one who spoke in his favor at Monday’s sentencing and has lived with him since his bond was modified to allow contact between the two.
The former victim described her relationship with Bieniek as loving and caring, and said she felt respected by him. She also said she wanted a future with him, and for the two to have a family together. She asked the court for the smallest sentence possible.
Bieniek said he was “deeply and profoundly sorry,” for his actions when addressing the court. He said he’s never tried to hurt others.
If given another chance, he would wait until his victim-now-girlfriend was 18 before he became anything more than friends with her, he said.
The mother of Bieniek’s victim-turned-girlfriend told the court that after she caught her daughter in bed with him, she didn’t report the incident right away. She described being embarrassed and said she sought help from a teacher before reporting the crime.
“What mom doesn’t want her [daughter] to be happy?” she asked.
The mother said she knew going to the police would come at the cost of her relationship with her daughter, but she felt it was her duty to report the crime.
“A loving guy wouldn’t have recorded her,” she said.
Jennifer Stephens, prosecuting attorney, said per the terms of the plea agreement the state would stay silent on sentencing.
A different victim, Schyler Pudsell, 20, wasn’t silent, however. She told the court how for years she knew Bieniek as her best friend’s dad.
“I trusted him like my own father,” she said.
She said theater was her life and his actions have made her unsure what she’s going to do now. She said she can’t trust her own judgment anymore, and that years of good memories are tainted.
The victim told the court how, looking back, there were many red flags — for instance, when Bieniek would start sentences with phrases like, “if she were 18.”
She asked the court to impose the maximum sentence, because she believed —given the opportunity — Bieniek would repeat his actions.
After sentencing, Pudsell said she’s glad he will spend time in jail, but that he deserved the maximum sentence. She  said she is glad Bieniek will be watched, even after his release, so that he can’t do what he did to anyone else.
Healing will take time, Pudsell said, but she said she thinks she’ll be able to move on now.
“I hope the other victims that weren’t here are able to move on,” she said.