Court upholds Aurora child abduction conviction
By Dan Campana For the Beacon-News April 25, 2013 1:52PM
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:58AM
A former Aurora man who argued prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to convict him of a 2009 child abduction has lost in his appeal attempt.
The Second District Appellate Court denied 64-year-old Stephen Sweigart’s request in a recent ruling that upheld Kane County Judge Edward Schreiber’s guilty verdict from a 2011 bench trial. Sweigart was sentenced to three years in prison, but was paroled in November, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Sweigart argued prosecutors fell short in proving he was in “dangerous proximity of success” to commit a child abduction during a Dec. 26, 2009, encounter with an 8-year-old boy inside an Aurora grocery store.
Sweigart claimed he had made only a passing comment to the boy in the store’s toy aisle and never tried to lure him out of the store.
However, the boy, his mother and sister, testified that Sweigart approached the boy near the store’s checkout lanes and exit.
The boy also testified Sweigart asked whether the boy would like to come to his house to play with toys. Sweigart then “scurried off” when the boy’s mother, standing about 10 feet away, told his sister to check on the boy.
A store employee took down Sweigart’s license plate, and police later stopped his van.
In addition to the smell of marijuana, police found a loaded handgun, ammunition, sex toys, children’s toys, a machete and throwing stars inside the van.
More weapons and ammunition were found in Sweigart’s home, according to authorities. Sweigart pleaded guilty to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and marijuana possession.
While Sweigart suggested prosecutors needed to prove he had strong probability of successfully taking the child out of the store based on his actions, appellate judges said the law requires prosecutors show he took a substantial step toward luring the boy to his van or home, court records show.
“Defendant did that (take a substantial step) when he asked (the boy) if he wanted to come to his home to play,” a summary of the ruling states.
Sweigart is required to register as a sex offender, but does not currently appear in the state’s online database.
He does appear in the state’s Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry with a Naperville address.