Bonek arrives in court

Edward James Bonek, 48, of Absecon, is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday before Judge Benjamin Podolnick for an arraignment, Bonek’s attorney, John Zarych, said Tuesday.

The Pleasantville High School principal charged with possession of child pornography is appealing his detention to the highest court in the state, his lawyer said.

Attorney John Zarych, who represents Edward “Jim” Bonek, said that he was filing a motion this week “for leave to appeal” to the New Jersey Supreme Court to have his client’s detention reconsidered by all seven justices. Zarych said this type of motion is different than a direct appeal because the trial is not over.

“It’s a very complex process that we’re pursuing vigorously,” Zarych said Monday.

Bonek, 48, of Absecon was arrested at his home in August and charged with first-degree possession and distribution of child pornography and official misconduct for allegedly using a school-issued laptop to download and share more than 1,000 images and videos depicting child abuse and sexual exploitation.

Superior Court Judge Benjamin Podolnick ruled that Bonek would remain jailed pending his trial due to the nature of the charges. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the appeal or Bonek’s detention.

Zarych filed in mid-August an appeal of Bonek’s detention to the state’s appellate division that was summarily denied.

Zarych said he then filed a request to the state Supreme Court, but that was rejected because Bonek had not exhausted all of his appeals options, specifically the latest action filed.

Meanwhile, Bonek’s case is being considered by a grand jury for indictment. Zarych said he will not have another pre-indictment appearance.

Since his detention, Bonek has been in the Cape May County Jail. Atlantic County Jail Warden David Kelsey said this was due to his position in the community and possible links to inmates in the local facility.

“We felt it was best to move him to another county to avoid any conflicts. This is a common practice in many county jails when a local public official is incarcerated,” Kelsey said.

Zarcyh maintains that Bonek did not intentionally download child pornography, but instead intended to download adult pornography. He said a forensic investigation has not yet been completed.

“The state obviously believes that there is sufficient evidence to move the case forward and our contention from the beginning (is) — and it remains our contention — that as the evidence develops, our client will be shown to be innocent,” Zarych said. “None of the files that he downloaded are labeled as child pornography. And there’s no evidence that he opened any of these child pornography files.”

A bill signed by former Gov. Chris Christie that went into effect Feb. 1 strengthened laws against possessing child pornography and included a section that clears the prosecution from the obligation to show intent.

Zarych said previously that he believes that stipulation is unconstitutional.

Bonek faces a mandatory 10 years in prison. He has been suspended from his $131,000-a-year position at Pleasantville High School.

The school district has moved former Leeds Avenue School Principal Howard Johnson into the lead role at the high school.

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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