A Benedictine monk accused of attempting to lure four teens into his car on two occasions in Antioch pleaded not guilty Tuesday to child abduction charges that could put him in prison for up to three years.
Thomas J. Chmura, 57, with a listed address at St. Benedict's Abbey in Benet Lake, Wis., entered his not guilty plea as his attorneys unsuccessfully petitioned a Lake County judge to lower his bond to $50,000 and allow him to reside at his adopted father's home in Lansing, Ill.
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Chmura currently is being held in Lake County jail in lieu of $150,000 bond after his initial $50,000 bond was revoked last week.
Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Victor O'Block argued that Chmura's bond should remain as is, noting there may be fifth person harassed by Chmura to get into his car prior to his April 26 arrest.
"The defendant has admitted to coming to Antioch on five to 10 occasions and offer girls rides," O'Block said.
Moving to Lansing would also make it impossible for Lake County authorities to monitor Chmura, the prosecutor added.
However, defense attorney Robert Hauser of Waukegan said Chmura could be placed on 24-hour curfew with an electronic home monitoring device to ensure his whereabouts at all times.
"We aren't talking about someone chasing these girls down the street with a knife," Hauser told Lake County Judge Christopher Stride. "This is a man asking someone if they want a ride."
Stride rejected defense request for now, but said a second bond hearing would be held Friday for a final determination.
Chmura was indicted last week on felony charges alleging her tried to lure four children under the age of 17 into his vehicle while they were walking in downtown Antioch on April 25 and 26.
According to police, Chmura was driving a silver station wagon when he pulled up next to a girl April 25 and asked if she wanted a ride. When she declined, authorities say, he continued to badger the teen to get in the car until she ran away. The teen contacted police and provided a detailed description of Chmura and the station wagon, authorities said.
The next day, an off-duty Antioch officer observed a Ford station wagon matching the girl's description pull up alongside three females on the sidewalk, authorities said.
The officer wrote down the license plate number, and the same vehicle was spotted and pulled over as it headed south on Route 83 later that day.
Chmura's bond first was set at $50,000, but he was told during an initial court appearance not to have contact with anyone under the age of 17. That bond was revoked and increased after police and court officials performed a check on him May 2 at St. Benedict's Abbey and found minors at the religious compound.
Officials at the Abbey said the youths were never in contact with Chmura, and were staying in a different building.
If found guilty, Chmura could be sentenced up to three years in prison. He could also be sentenced to probation.