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Tag: Galilee Episcopal Church Virginia Beach

Black Collar Crime: Youth Pastor Jeff Bondi Guilty of Sexually Assaulting Babysitter

jeff bondi

Jeff Bondi, a youth pastor for Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was found guilty today of felony sexual penetration. Bondi had been previously accused of sex crimes for which he was not prosecuted.

The Virginian-Pilot reports:

In the end, it was the testimony of people who had been close friends or trusted colleagues of Jeffrey Bondi’s that led to the former youth minister’s conviction on a sexual assault charge.

There also were Bondi’s own words: played in the courtroom from two phone conversations recorded by police, one of which was between him and the victim.

On Thursday, Circuit Judge Thomas Padrick found the 48-year-old guilty of felony sexual penetration for assaulting the woman in October 2001. She was 18 and babysitting his children at the time.

Sentencing was set for Oct. 10. Bondi could get anywhere from five years to life. The judge, however, could choose to suspend prison time.

Of the seven witnesses called by prosecutors, three had been among his closest friends, all of whom he met while attending the University of Virginia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Two were former colleagues at Galilee Church at the Oceanfront, where Bondi was working as a youth leader when the assault occurred.

A crucial prosecution witness was the victim: Margaret Anne “Mav” Viola. The Pilot typically does not identify sexual assault victims, but Viola agreed to have her name published.

Viola had been a member of Bondi’s youth groups and was a frequent babysitter for his kids. She’s 34 now and lives in Los Angeles, where she is a successful stand-up comedian.

“I’m in a bit of shock right now,” Viola said as she stood outside the courthouse with prosecutors. “I feel that justice was brought and the truth was brought forward, and I feel very proud of that.”

Bondi, who has Parkinson’s disease, shook from tremors as the judge explained his decision. One of his daughters could be heard sobbing in the courtroom. The judge agreed to allow him to remain under house arrest until his sentencing.

The day began with closing arguments in a courtroom packed with supporters from both sides.

Among the spectators was a longtime Child Protective Services worker. She investigated Bondi in 1997, when he was accused of fondling a 15-year-old girl on a bus returning from a Young Life youth ministry camp in North Carolina.

The investigator determined then that the allegations were credible and that the chance he would offend again was high, according to a CPS report of the incident. But no charges were brought because it was alleged to have occurred on a moving bus, and jurisdiction could not be established, the report said.

The girl, now in her mid-30s, was interviewed by prosecutors. She did not testify during the trial, but could be called during sentencing.

Viola testified that she had just begun her first semester at James Madison University when Bondi called and asked if she could come to Virginia Beach for the weekend to babysit his three young children. His wife, who was expecting their fourth child, was going out of town to attend a wedding.

Viola said the children were asleep and she was watching a movie when Bondi came home. He lay down by her, fondled her breasts and penetrated her with his fingers, she said.

The experience severely traumatized her and caused an eating disorder she had battled in high school to flare up again, she said. Her grades plummeted, and she dropped out in her second semester. She later returned and earned her degree.

Sara Olsen, a former co-worker of Bondi’s at Galilee Church, testified that Viola told her about the assault the next day. Leigh-Ellen Rodriguez, who had been a close friend of Bondi’s since they attended the University of Virginia together, testified that she saw Viola at a Halloween party the next night and could see that she was upset. When she asked why, Viola told her what happened.

Two other college friends testified about dinners they had with Bondi, in which they confronted him about the allegations.

In a phone call with Viola recorded by police, Bondi apologized to her, but said he did not remember the events that night the same way she did. But he didn’t deny that her memory of it might be the correct one.

The judge said the most compelling pieces of evidence for him were three pictures prosecutors submitted of Viola as a teen. She had long hair and looked like a “very young, smiling and innocent girl.”

“She was very naive, very trusting, a really sweet teenager. She did all the things parents want their children to do,” Padrick said. “She looked up to you as a pastor, and you sexually abused her.”

The judge also was highly critical of the adults involved in the case and leaders of the church at the time, whom he said should have reported the allegations to police.

“It’s just shocking that the church abandoned her,” he said.

Bruce Gerencser