VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A former Virginia Beach youth pastor has been found guilty of object sexual penetration.
Jeffery Bondi, a former Virginia Beach youth pastor at Galilee Church, was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl who was a member of his church youth group.
Lawyers on both sides presented their closing arguments Thursday before a judge ruled on the case. There were tears on both sides as the judge announced the verdict that Jeffery Bondi was guilty.
The victim told the court he used his hands to commit the crime back in 2001. That’s when Margaret Anne Viola was a freshman at James Madison University. She considered the Bondis to be almost like family and said Jeffery was like a father. Bondi was her youth pastor. She came in town to babysit for the Bondis and when Jeff got home, she said he sexually assaulted her on the couch.
In her testimony Wednesday, Viola claimed Bondi, at one point, laid behind her and put his arms around her. She claims Bondi put his hands up her shirt, before unbuttoning and unzipping her pants.
In 2016, a family friend went to police.
Viola had years of counseling to get over the pain.
“It’s been so many years obviously and so much pain for everybody,” Viola said. “No matter where you stand it affected so many people.”
During closing arguments, James Broccoletti, Bondi’s attorney, told the judge it is important that Viola never went to police in 15 years.
“I think that is a significant aspect the court has to consider,” Broccoletti said.
Judge H. Thomas Padrick asked Broccoletti: Why would Viola would make the story up?
“All previous attempts from keeping this man from children didn’t work in her mind,” Broccoletti added.
“What we are alleging is that it started out with just touching and the ball got rolling and it went way, way, way too far,” prosecutor Kate Aicher told the judge. “What reason does she have to go through this entire process? What reason does she have to get up on the stand and tell her story?”
Judge Padrick went right to his decision after closing agreements where done.
“It was totally inappropriate behavior,” the judge said. “It was criminal behavior. Just how much criminal behavior? It’s disturbing that the adults in this case didn’t go to police. Nobody did anything. I fault Galilee Church to a certain extent. I think it is just shocking that the church just abandoned her. Shame on them.”
Defense attorneys questioned why the victim never went to police.
“The defense believes there was reasonable doubt,” Bondi’s attorney Stephen Pfeiffer said. “We think the delay in the reporting and the way it was reported differently throughout the years.”
The defense has never denied there was inappropriate touching that night, but argued it didn’t go that far. Bondi was fired from the church shortly after the incident.
“It really comes down to credibility,” Padrick told the court. Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle tweeted Thursday that Bondi could face between five years to life in prison.
“It’s heartbreaking for him and the family,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s heartbreaking for everyone involved. This is a very tough case.”
“I think we can all agree, that’s the goal, that he doesn’t have access to youth,” Viola said.