A Chicago police officer accused of having sexual contact with an underage girl has been charged with felony criminal sexual assault, according to police and Cook County state’s attorney officials.
Officer Eugene Ciardullo, 51, was arrested by fellow officers at his home Saturday afternoon, department spokesman Officer Jose Estrada said. Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil ordered him held on $75,000 bond Sunday.
Prosecutors said in court Sunday that Ciardullo began communicating with the victim and her friends via social media when she was 16 years old. Prosecutors and police said the victim identified Ciardullo as the person who began having a “sexual relationship” with her when she was 17.
“The defendant and the victim discussed their age difference and defendant told the victim he could lose his job and go to jail if they were caught,” assistant state’s attorney Ed Murillo said. “The defendant told the victim to tell people who asked about their relationship that they were just good friends.”
The Tribune is not publishing additional details about the victim to avoid identifying her.
Ciardullo admitted to the allegations and knowledge of the victim’s age, prosecutors said.
Ciardullo, who wore sweatpants and a black coat, remained silent throughout the court hearing. He is expected to return to court Tuesday.
Ciardullo, of the Scottsdale neighborhood, is assigned to the department’s Deering District on the South Side, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
The felony charge against the 21-year department veteran was approved Saturday.
In addition to his employment with Chicago police, Ciardullo worked as a part-time security guard at a Chicago Public School in Mount Greenwood, a neighborhood known for its large number of police and firefighter residents. Michael Passman, a spokesman for CPS, said Ciardullo’s employment with the school district ended last month.
“A part-time security officer at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences was removed from his position in December in response to serious allegations, and the individual is no longer an employee of Chicago Public Schools,” Passman said. “The school responded promptly and followed proper protocols after it became aware of the allegations, and CPS is cooperating with law enforcement as it investigates the matter.”
About two dozen of Ciardullo’s family members were in court and appeared rattled by the allegations, with some relatives holding each other’s trembling hands while crying. One man braced his forehead against a gallery pew in an apparent daze.
Relatives declined to comment following the proceedings.
Ciardullo’s defense attorney, George Grzeca, said the officer’s career achievements included four commendations and 100 honorable mentions. He is also a four-year veteran of the Marine Corps.
Grzeca also declined to comment further outside court.
If he does post bail, Ciardullo will have to surrender his passport and any firearms he owns. He also is barred from using the internet and having any contact with people younger than 18. According to court records, Ciardullo has seven children; all of them are adults, Grezca told Kuriakos Ciesil.
Grzeca said his client has turned in his service weapon.
The internal affairs division is also investigating the case, Guglielmi said, and will present its findings to the Chicago Police Board to determine what discipline should be ordered.
“The Chicago Police Department is currently also investigating this incident internally and administratively,” Guglielmi said in a statement. “We remain committed to the highest levels of accountability for our officers and members and will not tolerate any activity or actions that undermine the integrity of the hard working men and women of our Department.”
Ciardullo has been a Chicago police officer since August 1995, according to city records.
Throughout his career with the Police Department, Ciardullo has amassed about 40 complaints on allegations ranging from minor personnel violations to excessive force but has only been found to have committed wrongdoing on two occasions. He was given a 10-day suspension in 2001 stemming from an excessive force allegation and a two-day suspension in 2008 for a violation related to “weapon/ammunition/uniform deviation,” the records show. It’s unclear in the records if Ciardullo served those suspensions or fought the penalties.
Details of the actual allegations within those complaints were not available.