Chesterton Tribune

Craigslist ad tutor found guilty of misdemeanor battery

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A Craigslist-ad tutor charged with child molesting was found guilty by a jury last week of a lesser charge of battery, the Porter County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said.

Brett J. Zagorac, 27, of Munster, had been charged with child molesting, a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight years.

But a jury on Thursday found him guilty of battery, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum term of 180 days, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek told the Chesterton Tribune on Monday.

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper granted the motion of Zagorac’s attorney to instruct the jury to consider the “lesser and included” charge of misdemeanor battery—with which Zagorac was not specifically charged—because the facts as presented at trial could have supported such a charge, Polarek said.

Per Indiana Code, “a person who knowingly or intentionally touches another person in a rude, insolent, or angry manner commits battery.”

Harper “had to give the jury the option of the lesser and included because the elements of that offense were part of the child molesting charge,” Polarek said. “And the jury found him guilty of battery.”

Harper immediately sentenced Zagorac to the maximum term for a Class B misdemeanor, 180 days in jail. But Zagorac was given credit for time served while being held in the Porter County Jail—where he was returned after his bond was revoked on April 28—and released over the weekend. “He did his time,” Polarek said.

Zagorac did not testify at his trial. The 6-year-boy who accused Zagorac of rubbing his back did testify, however, Polarek said, and while the boy wasn’t as detailed in his testimony as she expected him to be, the boy’s mother was permitted to testify to what the boy had told her about Zagorac.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Portage Police, Zagorac advertised his tutoring services on Craigslist under the name B.J. Wilhelm—claiming to be licensed teacher—and was hired late last year by a Portage woman to tutor her son, who was 5 at the time. Zagorac did tutor the boy, twice a week for three or four weeks, but on Dec. 21 the boy told his mother after a tutoring session that he did not like it “when my tutor scratches my back” and that it made him “uncomfortable,” the affidavit states.

The boy’s mother later learned that there are no licensed teachers in Indiana or Illinois named B.J. Wilhelm. But the tutor’s vehicle license number was traced to Zagorac and the boy’s parents learned that “Zagorac had previous charges of child molesting filed against him for similar acts,” the affidavit states.

“When interviewed by police, Zagorac advised that his mother had posted the Craigslist ad for him under the name B.J. Wilhelm because “he did not want people to find out that he had been previously charged with child molesting,” the affidavit states. Zagorac did deny rubbing the boy’s back.

Meanwhile, Zagorac is facing a similar misdemeanor battery charge in Evanston, Ill., in connection with an incident involving a 7-year-old girl whom he was tutoring there, Polarek said. After that investigation came to light, Harper revoked Zagorac’s bond on April 28 for violating the terms of his bond by tutoring a child.




Posted 10/26/2010