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Trial date set for teacher accused of inappropriate texts

Balegno charged with unlawful grooming, indecent solicitation

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

At what was expected to be a plea hearing Friday afternoon, former Morris Community High School teacher Steffen Balegno’s attorney instead asked for a trial date for his client.

A former Industrial Arts teacher, Balegno, was arrested and indicted in January 2012 on charges of unlawful grooming and indecent solicitation of a child.

The boy was one of his students and was 15 years old at the time. He is 19 now and away at college, his mother said, who asked to not be identified by name.

Peter Siena, a Grundy County assistant state’s attorney, told Judge Robert Marsaglia on Friday the parties could not come to an agreement on a plea deal and the defense wanted a trial date.

Siena requested an October date, but Balegno’s attorney, Raymond Wigell, asked for December or a later trial date for more time to file a motion and because of his previously planned vacation. Siena said December would be difficult for the victim, because he will have final exams.

“I remind you that this case has been continued twice,” Marsaglia said.

“This trial would have been in June if you hadn’t convinced me there would be a plea,” he said.

A final status hearing has been set for Oct. 2, with a trial date of Oct. 23.

Balegno started at Morris High in August 2006. On Oct. 25, 2010, a concerned parent notified the school of inappropriate communications between a student and a teacher.

The school administration and Morris police conducted an investigation and on Nov. 12, 2010, the Department of Children and Family Services was contacted.

Balegno was suspended indefinitely from all duties Nov. 15, 2010.

Balegno submitted his immediate resignation Dec. 16, 2010.

According to the indictment, Balegno used his cell phone in an attempt to entice a child through texting, resulting in Balengo allegedly committing criminal sexual abuse. Balegno allegedly indicated he would pay the child to allow the defendant to perform certain acts.

Balegno was arrested at his home in Coal City at the beginning of 2012, a little more than a year after the investigation began.

In the course of the investigation, it was not found whether Balegno and the male student ever had physical contact.

On Friday the victim’s mother said she felt her son cannot be the only victim.

“There is no way he is the only victim. Not with the stuff he texted him,”she said.

“He was too comfortable texting that to be his first time.”

The mother asks any other students who were ever inappropriately texted by Balegno, given gifts, offered anything, or made by him to feel uncomfortable to contact Morris police.

“Nothing physical happened to my son, but the main reason we are going forward with this is so it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” she said.

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