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'Uncle Mike' guilty on all counts of sex abuse
By Mick Zawislak | Daily Herald Staff

Michael Rebecca

 

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Published: 9/17/2009 6:53 PM | Updated: 9/17/2009 6:54 PM

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The man a suburban teen had known all his life and sometimes called "Uncle Mike" was found guilty Thursday of 20 counts of sexual assault and abuse against him.

A jury in Lake County circuit court deliberated about 2 1/2 hours before finding Michael Rebecca of Vernon Hills guilty on 10 counts of criminal sexual assault and 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse - every charge brought against him.

Rebecca faces up to 60 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Oct. 15.

Jurors apparently agreed with Assistant State's Attorney Bolling Haxall, who said Rebecca, who had baby-sat the boy as a child, "groomed" him into sexual activities that began when he was about 14 and continued for three years.

Testimony in the two-day trial showed Rebecca, a computer programmer, knew the boy's parents from the time the boy was born. He was regarded as a good and trusted friend who shared activities and exchanged Christmas gifts.

"Trust. That is what this case is about," Haxall said in his closing argument. "He (Rebecca) knew he violated that trust."

Rebecca, 52, had the victim "wrapped around his little finger ... with no fear of this coming out," Haxall told the jury.

In a videotaped statement shown to jurors, Rebecca admitted to many sexual encounters with the boy.

"They trusted me. I let them down. I understand that," the tape showed Rebecca telling investigators in November 2007.

Defense attorney James Schwarzbach did not dispute that the acts occurred, but contended Rebecca was not in a position of trust or authority, one of the conditions needed to prove the case. He maintained Rebecca had been "overcharged."

Haxall disputed that, adding that by providing food and medicine, making him do his homework and other examples, Rebecca was acting as a parent when the boy stayed overnight at his apartment.

"When the defendant was supposed to be protecting (the victim), he was molesting him," Haxall told the jury.

The verdict ended the first of what could be several proceedings against Rebecca, who was charged with 251 counts of sexual activities with nine boys over a four-year period.

The trial that ended Thursday was separated from the others and dealt only with a single victim, now 19. Haxall said prosecutors must determine the next steps with the remaining charges. A status hearing on that aspect is scheduled for Sept. 30.