MAYS LANDING — A high school principal will remain jailed pending his trial on charges of using a school-issued computer to access and distribute child pornography, an Atlantic County judge ruled Tuesday.

In a standing-room-only court-room, defense attorney John Zarych argued his client, Edward “Jim” Bonek, 48, of Absecon, didn’t know he had nor did he intend to have or share child pornography on his computer.

Zarych said his client’s case was not like “real child pornography cases” and that Bonek was “not the typical defendant.”

“Is this a fake child pornography case?” Superior Court Judge Benjamin Podolnick asked from the bench.

Bonek, the principal at Pleasantville High School who was arrested in his home last week, is 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.

Zarych said Bonek intended to download adult pornography, which Bonek is “not proud” of, but never intended to view child pornography.

“He did not acknowledge viewing child pornography,” Zarych said. “He was not interested in child pornography.”

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 believes that stipulation is unconstitutional.

“It would raise an issue of fundamental due process,” he said, calling what Bonek did a “technical violation of the law.”

“It’s about the thinnest case of child pornography distribution that I’ve come across in a very long time,” Zarych said.

Atlantic County Assistant Prosecutor Dave Ruffenach said he could not disagree more.

“It’s actually a very strong case,” he said.

Ruffenach, reading from the affidavit of probable cause, said detectives from his office began investigating Bonek in the spring due to file-sharing activity from an IP address linked to him.

“In addition to that incident on April 19, over the past several months that associated IP address has made contact with numerous law enforcement agencies which has resulted in the sharing, transmission and receipt of over 1,000 images of child abuse and sexual exploitation,” Ruffenach said.

The Prosecutor’s Office worked with the Department of Homeland Security in the investigation. During a search of Bonek’s home Aug. 8, Ruffenach said, Bonek “acknowledged possessing child abuse videos and images, as well as the utilization of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing network.”

Bonek is alleged to have specifically downloaded multiple torrents labeled “Siberian mouse,” which Ruffenach said is an identified series of child-abuse and child-exploitation images.

Police seized Bonek’s laptop from his home, and a search warrant was issued for a forensic exam, which is still pending.

Arguing for detention, Ruffenach said Bonek faces a mandatory 10 years in prison and said multiple firearms were located in Bonek’s home.

Zarych said Bonek, who is married and has two children, ages 3 and 15, living at home, agreed to an order from the state’s child protection agency to not contact his children, although his family supports him.

He said Bonek, if allowed release, would not return to his home but would instead stay with his father, Edward Bonek Sr., a retired teacher, who would password-protect his computer.

In his ruling to detain Bonek, Podolnick said there would be no way for the court to prevent him from accessing the internet while living at home with his father, even under monitoring.

About two dozen of Bonek’s family members and friends, including people from his church, came out to support him in his first in-person court appearance.

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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