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Former youth mentor gets 5 years for sex abuse

Published: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 4:19 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 11:48 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – A man convicted of sexually abusing a boy he once mentored admitted that he crossed boundaries with the child.

A McHenry County judge previously found Leonard W. Puccini, 53, formerly of Bull Valley, guilty of criminal sexual abuse.

“I know my intentions are good, but I went about mentoring in the wrong way,” Puccini said Friday at a sentencing hearing.

Puccini initially met the then-12-year-old boy through Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County.

“The [victim] didn’t have a father figure, and the defendant took advantage of that,” Assistant State’s Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein said. In June 2009, while at Puccini’s Bull Valley home, the man slapped the victim on the bare buttocks and was sexually aroused.

The boy said that after spanking him, Puccini went to his bedroom and he heard what sounded like Puccini masturbating.

His defense attorney, Steven Greenberg, asked that Puccini receive probation, but instead Judge Michael Feetterer sentenced him to five years in prison.

Greenberg highlighted a sex offender evaluation that called the incident “nominal spanking.”

Feetterer disagreed. “Probation would depreciate the seriousness of [the crime],” he said.

At the trial, two witnesses testified that Puccini had sexually abused them in the past. They said Puccini put his hand down their pants, would masturbate in front of them or fondled them. Puccini did not meet the boys through the mentoring program.

Two different witnesses testified Thursday that Puccini had inappropriate sexual encounters with them, too.

The men came forward after learning about Puccini’s arrest in the newspaper.

Feetterer said their testimony factored into his sentencing decision.

“The defendant … participated in behavior with young boys in the 1980s, the 1990s and this incident in 2009,” the judge said.

No criminal charges were filed in those instances because the statute of limitations had elapsed.

Before the incident for which he was criminally tried, Puccini bought the boy gifts and sent him text messages that said he loved him, testimony revealed during the trial. Puccini offered to adopt the boy.

In a written statement, the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization said it was “alarmed and saddened” by the charges.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters makes child safety our priority,” the statement read. “We have zero tolerance for abuse. Our volunteers and staff undergo thorough screening and background checks, and we provide ongoing professional support for our children and families.”

A remaining more serious sexual assault charge against Puccini has been dropped, as has a computer tampering charge.

“In light of the prison sentence, we decided to drop the charges,” Eisenstein said.

Puccini’s prison sentence will be stayed until Oct. 28, in order to retain an attorney for an appeal.

Puccini is eligible for day-for-day credit and will have to register as a sex offender.

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