Former cop convicted in child abuse case

  • Leroy Kuffel

    Leroy Kuffel

Published: 1/7/2010 5:30 PM

A Lake County jury deliberated about two hours Thursday before finding a former Round Lake Beach police officer guilty of having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

Leroy Kuffel, 52, faces up to seven years in prison after being convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, but will also be eligible for probation.

Kuffel, who retired from the department with 29 years of service about four months after his arrest last April, became acquainted with the girl while she was dating Kuffel's 21-year-old son.

The girl, who is now 17 years old, testified she became close to Kuffel as she was breaking up with his son, and that Kuffel brought her a pair of gym shoes, paid her cell phone bill on a couple of occasions and took her to dinner often.

They had sex twice in February and once in March, all three times at Kuffel's house near Lake Villa, the girl said. She also admitted lying at first to investigators who questioned her about the relationship.

Assistant State's Attorney Victor O'Block asked the jurors to view the victim's initial reluctance to be truthful through the prism of her age and her emotional trauma.

"All of a sudden, she has two cops in her house asking her if she has been having sex with an older man," O'Block said. "(The victim) wasn't forthcoming; most people in her position would not have been."

Defense attorney Charles Smith of Waukegan argued the victim told different stories about the relationship to a host of people, and was probably setting herself up for a lawsuit against Kuffel and Round Lake Beach police.

In contrast, Smith argued, his client willingly answered questions asked by investigators, even though he knew from his training he did not have to, and consistently denied he had a physical relationship with the girl.

"The truth is consistent from beginning to end," Smith told the jury of seven men and five women. "No one can look you in the eye and tell you that (the victim) told the truth from beginning to end."

The girl also testified that Kuffel coached her on what to say to detectives once they both knew they were under investigation.

A sheriff's detective testified that between April 1 and April 17, phone records showed the girl called Kuffel 279 times and he called her 111 times.

Kuffel did not testify in his own defense.

Associate Judge Daniel Shanes set Jan. 29 to file post trial motions, and allowed Kuffel to remain free on bond pending a sentencing hearing.

Neither Kuffel nor the girl, who was seated in the courtroom with her father when the verdict was read, reacted to the jury's decision.