Even some of Chicago’s finest make mistakes. Sometimes big ones.
Last month, a 51-year old Chicago Police Officer was arrested and charged with felony criminal sexual assault after an 18-year-old came forward and accused him of having sexual contact while she was underage.
Officer Eugene Ciardullo began working as a Chicago police officer in August 1995. Two years ago, Ciardullo allegedly began to communicate with a 16-year-old student at the Chicago Public School in Mount Greenwood where Ciardullo worked part-time as a security guard. According to the 16-year-old, she and Ciardullo began having sexual relations when the girl was 17. She says Ciardullo told her he could lose his job and go to jail if they were caught, and that the victim should tell her friends that Ciardullo was just a friend.
When the victim came forward with the accusations, Ciardullo was removed from his position. He is currently being held in jail, and his bond is set at $75,000. If he does post bail, the felony charges against him will force him to relinquish any firearms as well as his passport. Additionally, he is restricted from using the internet or contacting minors.
Before this accusation, Ciardullo had put together a fairly respectable career, receiving four commendations and 100 honorable mentions over the years. He was found guilty of wrongdoing twice previously, but the infractions were relatively minor, related to excessive force and a weapon/ammunition/uniform deviation.
His record isn’t so commendable anymore. Criminal sexual abuse or assault of a minor is a very serious charge.
What Illinois Means by “Criminal Sexual Abuse/Assault of a Minor”
We often equate the term “sexual assault” with “rape” – the act of committing sexual penetration against a victim without the victim’s consent. In this case, though, even if the 17-year-old victim did give consent to Ciardullo, legally the consent was not legitimate because she was underage. No minor is legally capable of giving consent to an adult, so the charges will still stand no matter what the victim said to Ciardullo at the time of the incidents.
Criminal sexual abuse or assault of a minor is a class 1 felony in Illinois. The penalties for a first offense of this charge, if convicted, include 4-15 years in prison, heavy fines, and a place on Illinois’s sex offender registry. For a second criminal sexual abuse or assault of a minor charge, defendants will face the penalties of a class X felony. Class X felony convictions require at least six years in prison, with penalties reaching 30 years behind bars, or even a life sentence.
Aggravated criminal sexual assault charges are also class X felonies, whether or not the defendant has a clean record or has been charged of sexual assault before. The following can bump a charge up from criminal sexual assault to aggravated criminal sexual assault:
- The defendant used a weapon during the assault
- The defendant threatened to kill the victim during the assault
- The victim was under the age of 8
- The victim had a mental or developmental disability
With These Charges, the Statute of Limitations Is Very Important
You might have noticed that the alleged victim who came forward is currently 18 years old. The crime happened last year. So why was she allowed to wait before coming forward? Many crimes have a “statute of limitations,” or a time limit that allows criminal charges to be filed months or years after the crime actually occurred.
The statute of limitations varies depending on the crime committed. For example, misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of 18 months, but for a charge like criminal sexual assault of a minor, the statute of limitations is longer.
Technically, the alleged victim had until she was 27 to press charges. The statute of limitations for criminal sexual assault – or aggravated criminal sexual assault/abuse – is 10 years after the alleged incident. (The statute of limitations if cut down to two years, however, if the incident was reported to authorities but no charges were filed.)
A full list of Illinois’ statutes of limitations can be found here.
What does this mean for you? That you can potentially be accused of a crime years after the fact and have to find some way to defend alleged actions you may not even remember.
Where sex crime charges are concerned, this is especially important because of how drastically they can change your life – even before you are convicted. Officer Ciardullo has lost his job, faces years in prison, and has lost many rights because of these charges.
If he is convicted, his world will change forever. Sex crimes are not something to take lightly. If you have been charged, you need to reach out to a serious Illinois criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.