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Hempstead Clerk Convicted of Misconduct, Acquitted of Coercion
Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla has been convicted of official misconduct and acquitted of three other charges following his two-week trial sexual harassment cover-up trial.
Upon finding the 50-year-old Bellmore man guilty Thursday, Judge Sharon Gianelli cited evidence that included text messages between Bonilla and his assistant, Derek Foder, who is friends with former Bonilla staffer Ariel Davis, 21, who accused Bonilla of sexual harassment.
“Obviously don’t let anyone know about it,” the text messages said, according to Gianelli, who read them aloud in the courtroom as she issued her verdict.
Prosecutors used the text messages as evidence that Bonilla was using Foder to get explicit photos of Davis from her ex-boyfriend and fellow ex-clerk staffer Alex Desidoro. Bonilla wanted to use the photos to discredit Davis’ complaint, prosecutors said. Foder was friends with both Davis and Desidoro.
Bonilla was found not guilty of petit larceny, coercion and a second misconduct charge because Desidoro and Foder contradicted each other in their testimony and it was unclear whether Bonilla asked for the photos or if Desidoro offered them, Gianelli said.
Friends and family gathered around Bonilla who appeared to be shaken up, and walked with him out of the court room as a swarm of video cameras followed him down the hall. He declined to comment to reporters outside the courtroom.
His attorney, Adrian DiLuzio, said that he would probably appeal the conviction.
Bonilla, who has refused calls from fellow Republicans to step down, is not running for re-election in November.
He will be sentenced Sept. 26 at First District Court in Hempstead. He faces up to one year in jail. Davis has also filed a lawsuit against him.
“Mark Bonilla created a toxic work environment with his personal conduct and then tried to smear a young woman who rebuffed his unwanted sexual advances,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. “Voters rightly expect elected officials to do their jobs with professionalism and common decency.”
Hempstead town officials did not return a call for comment.