James Sonntag, the local resident charged with possession of child pornography three years ago, was found guilty on Sept. 9 on three of 12 counts.
Judge Colleen Hyland announced the verdict at the Fifth Municipal District Courthouse in Bridgeview, where she presided over a bench trial from Aug. 6-8.
After acquitting Sonntag on the first nine counts, Hyland found him guilty on the final three, referring to Sonntag, of Morgan Park, admitting to Evergreen Park police after he was arrested that he had child pornography on his computer.
“He admitted that [police] would find ‘kid sh—’on it,” Hyland said. “The defendant cannot escape his own words, and in his words, his own morbid curiosity.”
Sonntag placed his head into his hands after the guilty verdict was read.
Hyland noted that Sonntag told law enforcement officers he downloaded music, movies and pornography from the internet, keeping what he wanted and deleting the rest.
She said the files related to the counts on which he was found guilty were on his hard drive.
Sonntag was found not guilty on five other counts, Hyland said, because of a safe-harbor provision that clears people of wrongdoing if they have child pornography but delete files in a reasonable amount of time.
The files were deleted, and while the state’s witnesses said they used a program to show they were once there, Hyland said the state did not prove that Sonntag didn’t delete them right away.
In acquitting Sonntag on four other counts, Hyland pointed to the defense’s key witness testimony that Sonntag’s computer didn’t have the appropriate media player to view the files. A state’s witness alleged that partial files were playable on his computer, but Hyland pointed to the fact that the state never tried to play the files on Sonntag’s computer, which was taken into evidence.
Sonntag was 43 when he was arrested and charged in June 2016 with possession of child pornography videos and photos, with some including children under 13 years old.
The state, with the help of several witnesses who work in law enforcement and on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, contended that he used the eMule file-sharing program to download and disseminate child pornography.
Sonntag’s lawyers said he never “knowingly” possessed or distributed such files.
Sonntag’s supporters held hands as the verdict was read, and one relative became emotional.
Sonntag’s bond was revoked.
He is due back in court on Oct. 8, at 1:30 p.m., for post-trial motion and pre-sentence investigation.