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Bondi v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

March 26, 2019

JEFFREY DEAN BONDI
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

          FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH H. Thomas Padrick, Jr., Judge

          James O. Broccoletti (Randall J. Leeman, Jr.; Zoby, Broccoletti & Normile, P.C., on brief), for appellant.

          Eugene Murphy, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Petty, Chafin and O'Brien Argued at Williamsburg, Virginia

          OPINION

          MARY GRACE O'BRIEN JUDGE

         Jeffrey Dean Bondi ("appellant") was convicted in a bench trial of object sexual penetration, in violation of Code § 18.2-67.2(A)(2). The court sentenced him to thirty-five years of incarceration with twenty-five years suspended. Following a post-sentencing hearing, the court also denied appellant's motion to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial based on after-discovered evidence. On appeal, appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that he "committed any act against the complaining witness by force, threat, or intimidation." He also assigns error to the court's denial of his motion to set aside based on "newly discovered evidence [that] came directly from the complaining witness."

         Finding no error, we affirm appellant's conviction.

         BACKGROUND

         M.V., the complaining witness, was thirty-four years old at the time of trial.[1] She met appellant, a youth minister at her church, when she was in high school. M.V. described herself as a shy and "extremely modest" teenager who did not date or engage in sexual activity. Appellant was a mentor and "fatherly figure" to M.V. She became close to appellant's family and regularly visited their home. When M.V. went away to college in Harrisonburg, she displayed pictures of appellant's children in her dorm room.

         During her first semester of college, appellant asked M.V. to come home to Virginia Beach for a weekend and babysit his children. He explained that his wife was going out of town and that he wanted to attend a football game. On October 26, 2001, M.V. drove to appellant's residence and babysat. When appellant returned home, M.V. was sitting on the sofa. Appellant put a pillow on her lap and lay down. Appellant had never done this before, and M.V. testified that she felt nervous and uncomfortable. Appellant reached under her shirt and put his hand "over [her] shoulder bone." He pulled M.V. down so that she was lying in front of him with his arm around her.

         Appellant put his hand under M.V.'s shirt again and this time reached underneath her bra and touched her breasts. He unzipped her pants, touched the top of her underwear, and digitally penetrated her vagina once. M.V. testified that she was "completely frozen and in shock" and appellant's actions were painful and "did not feel good." Appellant apologized and told M.V., "I love you like a daughter but I'm also in love with you." Appellant put his arm around M.V., and they stayed in that position for approximately one hour.

         When M.V. believed that appellant had fallen asleep, she tried to slide out from under his arm to leave. Appellant grabbed M.V.'s arm and asked where she was going. She replied that she thought appellant had gone to sleep, so "she could go home." Appellant pulled M.V. back into the same position on the sofa and said, "[N]o, stay." M.V. testified that although appellant had used an apologetic tone of voice earlier, he now sounded more aggressive, insistent, and demanding. She testified that she had no option but stay.

         Appellant continued to touch M.V.'s breasts and again put his fingers in her vagina. He became more aggressive; he rolled on top of M.V. and kissed her neck and mouth. M.V. did not respond but lay "[c]ompletely paralyzed" underneath him. M.V. asked appellant if he would ever engage in this type of behavior with one of his children, and he replied that he "hope[d] not." M.V. stated that she was uncomfortable, and appellant responded that she needed to leave. M.V. grabbed her keys, and appellant walked her to her car. Appellant continued to apologize, but M.V. did not respond. She testified that she felt "[s]haken" and "[s]cared" and was in considerable pain.

         The next evening, M.V. saw appellant at a church party. Leigh Ellen Rodriguez, an older female mentor and friend to M.V., noticed that she was distressed. M.V. told Rodriguez that appellant had hurt her in a "sexual nature" and described the incident in "broad strokes." M.V. testified that she felt threatened and scared when she saw appellant at the party. At trial, Rodriguez testified that the night after the church party, she spoke to appellant about his actions; he told her that "something had happened," but "he didn't mean for it to happen."

         Another friend, Sara Olsen, drove M.V. back to college the following day. M.V. told Olsen that appellant had placed his hands under her clothing and "hurt [her]." She did not provide Olsen with any further facts. At trial, M.V. explained that her reluctance to relate the specific details to Rodriguez and Olsen was due to her modest upbringing and the fact that she "didn't know who [she] could trust. One of the people [she] trusted the most and valued the most [and] viewed as a mentor and father figure just betrayed [her]." M.V. subsequently became depressed, her eating disorder worsened, and her grades plummeted. She temporarily left school the following semester.

         Two years later, the church pastor met with appellant and M.V. They did not discuss the details of the October 26, 2001 incident, but M.V. testified that the purpose of the meeting was "reconciliation [and] forgiveness." M.V. stated that ...


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