Mark Bonilla's attorney challenges accuser; video shows touching
The attorney for Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla said in court Tuesday that the accuser filed the sexual harassment complaint purely out of self-interest.
Bonilla is charged with two counts of official misconduct, coercion and attempted petty larceny, stemming from accusations that he attempted to obtain intimate photographs of a subordinate who had filed a sexual harassment charge against him with the town.
Bonilla's attorney, Adrian DiLuzio of Mineola, said in court that the accuser was transferred from part-time to full-time work after she filed the complaint in August 2012. He said outside court that her decision to complain was "calculated" because she knew it would "get her something."
With the accuser on the stand, DiLuzio said: "You ran to the office to make a complaint against him because you knew you would be rewarded for it."
In response, the accuser confirmed that she became a full-time worker the day she made the complaint. She also said she was transferred from the clerk's office to the water department, where a town spokesman said Tuesday that she is a receptionist and was paid $35,632 per year.
But the accuser said she formally complained because she was uncomfortable with Bonilla's behavior, which included repeated unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. She has been identified in court, but Newsday is withholding her name because of the sexual nature of the allegations.
"I told him repeatedly to stop calling me 'babe,' to stop touching me, and that there needs to be a border," she testified. "He said, 'That's just the kind of person I am.' "
Bonilla, a Republican who makes $129,500, is still town clerk, but does not plan to seek re-election. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Earlier Tuesday, prosecutor Jed Painter played a video the accuser shot with her cellphone of her and Bonilla driving while on a town assignment. In the video, Bonilla says, "If I give you everything, and that's my plan, why would you ---- that up?"
The video was audible for the courtroom, but a Newsday reporter there could not see the footage, which was facing Judge Sharon Gianelli. Attorneys for both sides confirmed the video shows Bonilla repeatedly touching the accuser's arm.
The accuser also testified that Bonilla promised her extra money and possibly a town car if she showed "loyalty," she said.
The trial, at First District Court in Hempstead, is expected to reconvene at 2 p.m. Wednesday with testimony from Susan Jacobs, a Hempstead Town attorney who was in the room when the accuser issued her harassment complaint, DiLuzio said.
DiLuzio said he intends to call Bonilla to the stand later in the trial, which is likely to continue into next week.