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Aide alleges Bonilla tried to pay off accuser

Town of Hempstead Clerk Mark Bonilla in Hempstead

Town of Hempstead Clerk Mark Bonilla in Hempstead District Court for his official misconduct trial in Hempstead. (July 11, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla asked one of his subordinates to deliver a message to a woman who filed a sexual harassment charge against him that he was willing to pay her to make the complaint go away, the subordinate said Monday during Bonilla's misconduct trial.

The worker, Alex Desidoro of Westbury, testified he had an on-and-off relationship with the complainant, another former Bonilla subordinate. Bonilla faces official misconduct charges stemming from accusations he attempted to obtain intimate photographs of the complainant after she told town officials Bonilla was harassing her.

Desidoro said he was unwilling to tell the complainant Bonilla was willing to pay her off.

"He asked me to ask her for an estimate," Desidoro said. "I said I would do it, but I didn't."

Bonilla is charged with two counts of official misconduct, coercion and attempted petty larceny and faces up to 1 year in jail if convicted. The woman who filed the harassment charge has been named in court, but Newsday has withheld her name because of the sexual nature of the allegations.

Bonilla is a Republican who has been town clerk for almost 10 years and is not seeking re-election this fall. He has refused calls from fellow party members for him to step down.

Desidoro also testified Monday that Bonilla told him he needed something to "portray [the complainant] as a bad person." Desidoro said he told Bonilla he had "private photos that are just meant for me," and Bonilla asked for them.

Desidoro, then a clerical aide, said from the stand that he didn't want to say no to his boss, but also didn't want to hand over compromising photos of the complainant. So, he said, he instead agreed to give a CD to Derek Foder, another Bonilla aide.

Desidoro said he gave Foder a password-protected CD that contained only a picture of a Jeep, and told Bonilla that the disc contained photos of the complainant but he would not give Bonilla the password.

"I told him I would give you photos but I'd never said I'd give you the password," Desidoro said. "He was annoyed that I wasn't completely cooperating."

Foder testified Monday that he acted as a go-between for the CD. He said he did not believe Bonilla thought the pictures Desidoro had were sexual in nature.

"He didn't have a clue what Alex was going to hand over," Foder said.

Bonilla's attorney, Adrian DiLuzio, said the complaint against Bonilla was part of a plot by the complainant to file a lawsuit against Bonilla, which she has filed.

"It's simply not true," he said outside court.

The trial, which is taking place in First District Court in Hempstead, is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. with more testimony from Desidoro. More witnesses, including investigators who worked on the case, are also expected to testify.

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