Elgin cleric accused of sex abuse faces deadline to accept plea deal
An Elgin cleric accused of sexually abusing two women is scheduled for a Sept. 12 jury trial after he did not accept a plea agreement offered by prosecutors on Tuesday.
Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, founder and former head of the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin, can reconsider and accept the offer, which was not disclosed, but Judge James Karahalios warned he would no longer accept those terms once the trial is underway.
"If this offer is not accepted prior to Sept. 12 I will not go along with the offer because the defendant will have pushed the state to great expense and inconvenience," Karahalios said.
Saleem was accused in February 2015 of sexually abusing a then-22-year-old employee of the institute, a school for children in grades six through 12.
The woman claimed Saleem repeatedly hugged her, touched her and massaged her against her will between October 2013 and April 2014.
In December 2015, Cook County prosecutors filed additional sexual abuse charges against Saleem, 77, who they say sexually abused a student at the school. The accuser came forward after she learned of the investigation into Saleem.
Saleem, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
If convicted of the most serious charges, Saleem faces up to seven years in prison. Probation is also an option.
A supporter of the accusers who was in court Tuesday said he hopes the case will be settled without a trial because he hopes the women won't have to testify.
"All we want is justice for them," said Afsar Ali.