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Alleged victim in Mark Bonilla harassment trial testifies

Town of Hempstead Clerk Mark Bonilla at District

Town of Hempstead Clerk Mark Bonilla at District Court. (Oct. 26, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A former employee testified Monday during the trial of Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla that the official aggressively sought "scandalous" photographs to discredit her.

Occasionally wiping away tears during about an hour of testimony, the woman said Bonilla displayed a pattern of harassment -- including calling her "babe" and touching her inappropriately -- when she worked for him in various administrative roles from June 2010 to August 2012.

Bonilla, the town clerk for about a decade, is standing trial on two counts of official misconduct, coercion and attempted petty larceny related to the woman's allegations that he sexually harassed her. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

The alleged victim was publicly identified in court Monday, but Newsday is withholding her name because of the sexual nature of the allegations.

She testified that Bonilla tried to obtain intimate photographs of her from another of his employees, with whom she had been romantically involved. That man is also expected to testify.

He was "mortified" by the request, she said.

"[He] told me Mark was trying to get something of me," she said, adding that Bonilla's actions came after she complained to the town in August 2012 about his "inappropriate behavior toward me."

The woman added that she has since filed a civil suit against Bonilla.

Monday was the first day of Bonilla's trial, which his attorney, Adrian DiLuzio of Mineola, expects to last through the week. In opening statements, DiLuzio said the prosecution's case is made up of "exaggerations, inaccuracies and questionable conclusions."

He said Bonilla spoke with members of his staff after he learned of the woman's complaint, but he never did anything illegal. "The way Mr. Bonilla reacted was the way anyone would have reacted in that situation," DiLuzio said.

Prosecutor Jed Painter said in his opening that Bonilla offered to reward the woman's boyfriend, a clerical aide, with a promotion if he turned over intimate photos. The man instead handed over a blank compact disc, Painter said.

Painter said Bonilla was attempting to discredit the woman because her allegations could harm his political ambitions. He said Bonilla's attempt to recruit the boyfriend to help was part of an effort to keep his employees on his side.

"What does John Wayne do? He rounds up a posse," he said.

Bonilla, a Republican, is paid $129,500 per year. He has held the post despite calls to step down from party members, including Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.

Town Republicans dropped him from their slate of fall candidates, and Bonilla has said he does not intend to run.

Outside court, Bonilla offered little comment. "Just hoping the truth comes out," he said.

Prosecutors declined to discuss the case outside court.

The trial, at First District Court in Hempstead, is expected to reconvene Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. with more testimony from the woman.

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