Chromik conviction upheld

Andy Kravetz

The conviction of Steve Chromik, a former Metamora Township High School teacher and coach, has been upheld by the Illinois Appellate Court.

A trio of appellate judges ruled Feb. 18 Chromik received a fair trial on sex charges in a 2009 trial involving a former student.

In the decision the trio of judges wrote that any error in the trial was “harmless” to the outcome. As a result, Chromik, 28, of Elk Grove will likely finish his four-year prison sentence in June.

‘Justice delayed’

Chromik’s attorney, Joel Brown, said the decision flew against established Illinois law. Brown said he would ask the panel to reconsider. If that is not successful, Brown said he would appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

“In this case, justice delayed is justice lost,” Brown said.

In October, the panel of Daniel Schmidt, Tom Lytton and Mary McDade came to Bradley University as part of an ongoing judicial education program.

The panel held an argument by Brown that Chromik’s right to confront a witness was hampered by the state’s “Rape Shield Law,” which prevents attorneys from delving into a person’s sexual past, was not valid. Brown argued prosecutors should have never asked the girl about her sexual history. The panel found that was not an issue because the jury acquitted Chromik of a more serious charge involving assault and convicted him of abuse, which alleged groping.

The allegation

The appellate court decision lays out a detailed account of the allegations against Chromik.

The bill of indictment alleged Chromik committed criminal sexual assault with the minor victim between May 9 and June 31, 2008. That alleges penetration while in a position of trust, authority or supervision to the victim.

At the same time the indictment alleged Chromik also committed aggravated criminal sexual abuse by knowingly committing an act of sexual conduct with the victim.

During trial the victim testified she was BORN Sept. 25, 1991, and attended MTHS during the 2007-08 school year. She played on the varsity soccer team in the Spring of 2008, a time when she was 16. Chromik was her instructor in home economics and was also the assistant varsity soccer coach.

The victim said on May 1, 2008, prior to a soccer game, she went to a shed where her team kept soccer equipment.

“She walked to the shed with defendant, began gathering equipment for the game, and discussed the team meal with defendant. While in the shed, defendant asked (the victim) ‘what (she) was good at.’ She inquired as to what defendant was talking about when defendant told her to ‘come here.’ After she walked over to him, defendant grabbed her by the belt, pulled her towards him, and put his hands up her shirt. His hands were under her shirt near her ribs before she ‘pushed his hands down,’” the decision said.

The victim then alleged he put his hands in her pants.

“The victim noted that immediately after this incident she ‘was really scared, intimidated,” the decision said. “Nevertheless, she asked defendant to help her carry equipment from the shed. She did not report the incident

that day. She went to the soccer game.”

The victim testified that on May 9, 2008, she met Chromik at a gas station and followed Chromik to his apartment in Peoria.

The victim alleged Chromik gave her alcohol, groped her and she awoke in his bed.

The victim testified she spent a second night at Chromik’s apartment a week or two after the first night out of fear of him.

She said Chromik had a large drink with strong alcoholic content mixed for her.

“Intimidation led her to drink the cup as she was told. The victim noted that after she helped defendant create ‘senior pages,’ he began kissing and touching her,” the decision said.

Sex was alleged.

MTHS role

In early June of 2008 the victim discussed the events that took place in the equipment shed with a graduating senior. The graduating senior reported

the situation to the school administration.

The victim presented text messages between herself and Chromik to the MTHS administration.

A June 3, 2008, meeting took place at MTHS. Ken Maurer, superintendent of MTHS, testified at trial he did not report any activity to either the police or DCFS for more than 30 days after first hearing of the incident in the shed, even though he is a mandated reporter pursuant to statute.

The court decision said, “(Maurer) stated his reporting duties are triggered if ‘we have evidence of sexual relationship between an adult or a staff member with a child.’ When asked if “an allegation that a teacher has attempted to place his hands up her shirt and his hands in her pants” would ‘trigger an immediate report to DCFS,” Maurer replied, ‘It would if she was consistent in that allegation. She wasn’t.’”

Police role

Peoria Police Detective David Nelson, when checking Chromik’s phone records, found from May 3 to July 8, 2008, 386 calls and text messages were sent between the parties.

Chromik initiated contact, via phone or text message, with the victim 180 times and the victim initiated contact with Chromik 186 times.

Chromik testifies

Chromik, in court testimony, denied having inappropriate contact with the victim in the equipment shed.

However, he admitted sending text messages that read: “Some fake crying would help, just say you made it up and you don’t want to talk about it anymore. You have to say nothing happened because they think something did.”

Chromik testified his intent with the messages was to encourage truthfulness.

The decision

The appellate court found the case argued before Judge James Shadid contained sufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdict for aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

The appellate justices found the trial court did not err in denying Chromik’s attorney the opportunity to cross-examine the victim regarding her prior sexual experience, admitting prior bad acts evidence, and admitting a document that cataloged text messages sent from Chromik to the victim.

DeWayne Bartels of the Woodford Times contributed to this story.