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updated: 3/31/2013 4:00 PM

Court upholds Aurora man's child abduction conviction

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A 64-year-old Aurora man has lost his bid to have a court overturn his conviction for trying to lure a child from a grocery store in 2009.

An appellate court panel recently upheld the guilty verdict and three-year prison term for Stephen P. Sweigart for felony child abduction.

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In the appeal, Sweigart argued there was not a "dangerous proximity of success" when he talked to an 8-year-old boy at an Aurora grocery store.

Authorities say Sweigart asked the boy if he wanted to come to his home to play with a "futuristic firetruck" and a choo-choo train. The boy refused, and Sweigart never grabbed him or tried to force him into his van, according to authorities and court documents.

In a ruling, judges rejected Sweigart's argument.

"The law does not require a strong probability of success. Instead, the law requires a 'substantial step,' and enticing or seeking to entice a contemplated victim of the crime to go to the place contemplated for its commission is a sufficient act to constitute a substantial step," read part of the judges' opinion. "Defendant did that when he asked (the victim) if he wanted to come to his home and play."

The panel also opined that even if the "dangerous proximity" standard did apply, Sweigart would still be guilty.

"Defendant approached (the victim) near the exit of the store. Although his van was outside in the parking lot, it was easily accessible," the ruling states. "Further, although (the boy's) family was nearby, they were not in earshot. The evidence permits the conclusion that defendant would have successfully abducted (the boy) if (the boy) had simply agreed to follow him."

Sweigart currently is on parole through November after serving time in the Dixon Correctional Center. He will be listed for 10 years on the state registry under the Illinois Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act.

Lawyer lauded for giving back: Sandra Parga, an attorney and volunteer for Prairie State Legal Services, recently was recognized with the Kane County Bar Foundations's annual Pro Bono Award.

The foundation each year honors a member of the Kane County Bar Association who has donated uncompensated hours to serving those in need. Nominations are made by peers and court personnel.

Parga has been involved in the Kane County Pro Bono Program since 2006, and conducted 19 pro se clinics for individuals representing themselves, in addition to taking on numerous pro bono cases, the foundation said. She is bilingual and held the clinics in Spanish, making the law more accessible. All of these cases were divorces, and most of the clients were victims of domestic violence.

"The Kane County Bar Foundation is deeply appreciative of the service to the public that Sandra Parga provides through her commitment to Prairie State Legal Service. Both Prairie State and the community are fortunate to have volunteers, such as Sandra Parga, who provide such dedicated service to Kane County's needy," the foundation said in a statement.

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

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