By ANDY KRAVETZ
of the Journal Star
Posted Jun 05, 2009 @ 05:06 PM
PEORIA — A former Metamora Township High School teacher and soccer coach was convicted Friday of sexually abusing a former student and soccer player last spring.
Jurors deliberated about five hours before finding Stephen J. Chromik, 26, guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Chromik, a former Bradley University soccer player, was taken into custody immediately following the verdict.
However, jurors acquitted him of the more serious charge of criminal sexual assault, a decision that means Chromik now is eligible for probation when sentenced Aug. 20. Also, any potential prison term is capped at seven years rather than 15 years.
The student, then 16, testified Chromik had sex with her twice at his Peoria apartment and also tried to grope her at an equipment shed outside the school. Chromik denied that and his attorney called the allegations a “drunken boast” at a graduation party that took on a life of its own.
Defense attorney Joel Brown blasted the girl’s story, saying she made the statements and then couldn’t get out of them. Also, Brown said, she risked being barred from playing sports or cheerleading because of the district’s alcohol policy.
But Assistant State’s Attorney Brian FitzSimons told jurors not to be confused. Chromik, not the girl, he held, was on trial. The prosecutor noted that Chromik contacted her 180 times in May and June by either text message or phone call.
That, he said, was well beyond the norm of a teacher or coach.
Chromik resigned from the district in July and moved out of the area.
At the time he was arrested, Chromik was on probation for felony aggravated assault from Tennessee. That case, which was pleaded down from a sexual battery charge, apparently stemmed from a 2003 incident at Vanderbilt University. He was placed on five years’ probation beginning in 2005 for the offense.
For more complete details, please see tomorrow’s Journal Star or check pjstar.com later.