Bonynge hit with new felony charge

Cala Smoldt/Correspondent

Tuesday in Mercer County Court, after Judge Richard Zimmer found probable cause for the charge filed December 2014 against former Aledo Police Officer Steven Bonynge, he was hit with another charge. Initially charged with 1 count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse/weapon, the charge states that the abuse took place on or about February or March, 2013 in Mercer County. The new charge, a Class 2 felony, handed over in court Tuesday by Special Prosecution Michael Vujovich alleges that in the same time period, with the same victim Mr. Bonynge committed the offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, accusing him of using his position of authority as a sworn police officer for the City of Aledo to engage in sexual conduct.

The evidence used to find probable cause on the first charge included testimony from Special Agent Brian Masters, criminal investigator with the Illinois State Police. According to Agent Masters, Ms. Doe said he touched her breasts on multiple occasions during which time she was 16 years old. He said, "Officer Bonynge conceded he was aware she was 16 when the relationship began." When asked where the acts took place, Agent Masters said, "at the Mercer County fairgrounds or the city waste dump.... (the victim) revealed to us this would occur either in Officer Bonynge's vehicle or Jane Doe's."

Prosecutor Vujovich clarified with Agent Masters that on all, except one occasion, the acts occurred while Mr. Bonynge was in uniform.

By Agent Master's testimony the relationship started about 10 weeks after Officer Bonynge began field training for new Officer Seth Degelman in September 2012. The time frame puts the beginning of the relationship in early 2013. Ms. Doe turned 17 March of the same year.

Defense Attorney William Gullberg asked Agent Masters to pin down the 3-4 month period the alleged illicit conduct occurred. He said, "Nobody in this investigation was able to say exact dates." He asked if there was evidence of sexual penetration. Agent Masters said, "No, it never got that far."

Agent Masters testified, "She said he touched her breasts over the clothing - he also admitted to that (during interrogation)."

Attorney Gullberg asked Agent Masters to clarify, "Did you ask how touching was manifested? By hand or by hugging?" He responded that it was unequivocally clear by all parties that touching meant what all people would believe it to mean. Judge Zimmer denied Attorney Gullberg's request to play the audio of the interview. He said he believed it would show how the questioning berated the alleged victim. He asked Agent Masters how many times the investigators asked the victim if anything other than kissing took place. Agent Masters said, "I will concede there were multiple inquiries made."

"I've got 30 between the two of you ... each of the 30 times she said nothing, " said Attorney Gullberg.

Once Judge Zimmer found probable cause, Special Prosecutor Vujovich handed the court the new charge filed against Mr. Bonynge.

Vujovich said, "Once the court finds probable cause, the people are free to file additional charges of similar or related conduct."

Defense Attorney Gullberg responded, "I think it's a cheap trick." He said all the statements from the victim indicate it was consensual, and not caused by Mr. Bonynge's position of authority.

If convicted of a Class 2 felony, the charge carries 3-7 years prison. A pre-trial conference where the defense will make a motion to suppress was set for 9 a.m. March 30.