Trial begins for Vernon Hills man accused in sexual abuse

  • Michael Rebecca

    Michael Rebecca

Published: 9/17/200 9:15 AM

As a trusted family friend, Michael Rebecca baby-sat a young boy who ultimately became a victim of repeated sexual abuse, a Lake County prosecutor said Wednesday.

"This was cool Uncle Mike. He had a video game system. He had money," Assistant State's Attorney Bolling Haxall said in his opening statement of the trial in Lake County circuit court.

The computer programmer from Vernon Hills also had certain rules, one of which was based on the movie "Fight Club," Haxall said.

"What happens in Mike's house stays in Mike's house."

Rebecca is charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual assault and 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse regarding the victim, now 19.

Rebecca, 52, faces charges involving nine boys over a four-year period. Following his arrest in late 2007, another prosecutor described the scenario as one of the most wide-ranging cases of sexual abuse in Lake County history.

Prosecutors at the time said victims were assaulted hundreds of times at his home at 710 Court of Birch, Apt. 1, and that he organized a sex club for his victims.

Before the trial, Associate Judge Theodore S. Potkonjak granted a defense motion to separate the cases, meaning jurors Wednesday heard testimony and evidence relating only to one of the victims.

That included edited clips of a videotaped statement Rebecca made to investigators in which he admitted to having sexual relations with the victim at his apartment as well as testimony from the teen and his parents.

Testimony showed Rebecca had been good friends with the parents before the boy was born and throughout his life. Shared activities included barbecues, sporting events, birthday parties and exchanging Christmas gifts.

Rebecca periodically baby-sat the boy as a child. He began staying overnight occasionally at Rebecca's home from about the age of 12 or 13 until he was 17, testimony showed. The sexual activity with Rebecca began when he was 14 or 15, the teen testified.

In his opening statement, defense attorney James Schwarzbach urged jurors to be dispassionate and said the state had "overcharged" Rebecca.

"Charges are smoke. They are not fire," he said.

Investigators became involved in early November 2007 when a 16-year-old, who was said to be feeling suicidal, went to police with information about his relationship with Rebecca.

He was arrested in Chicago later that day and has been jailed since.