Crew member sentenced to 5 years in prison for groping a co-worker

Jan 30, 2017

The Juneau Empire reports that a 40-year-old Celebrity Millennium crew member from Honduras was sentenced last month maximum penalty of five years in prison by the Juneau Superior Court. The judge found Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla guilty for sexually assaulting a 26-year-old female co-worker, from Ottawa, Canada. Bonila was arrested on July 12, 2015, and charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault for groping the woman while Celebrity Millennium was sailing near Icy Straits, Alaska.

According to the court documents, after the victim left the crew bar and was on her way back to her cabin a man she didn’t know grabbed her from behind. She says that Bonila covered her mouth, and started touching her breast and genitals, and attempted to force himself on her. Staff member Rodney Johnson, working as an onboard comedian was passing by the corridor when he noticed sounds of a struggle and opened a door that led to the crew stairwell. 

He testified that he saw the victim struggling to get free from Bonilla, who was holding the victim from behind with one hand on her waist. As Bonila saw the man he released the woman who thanked Johnson and run to her cabin. The woman immediately reported the assault to the ship's security officer. According to her testimony, she admits that she had been drinking in the crew bar, but was not impaired.

Bonilla testified in front of Juneau Superior Court saying that he had noticed the woman trying to walk back to her cabin and that she was struggling to keep her balance, walking from side to side in the corridor and then slipped on the stars. The crew member adds that he ran to help her and pushed her up to keep her from falling when she started to panic. He denied that he had any sexual intent towards the woman and that he didn’t touch her breast or genitals, and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The defendant lawyer, Juneau Assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer, argued that the victim was questionable because she had told several different stories to the jury, the grand jury, and officers.

What can a crew member do, in order to avoid the accusation of sexual assault?

It is not ours to say if the crew member was helping his fellow co-worker or he sexually assaulted her. The court has made that decision. However in order to avoid the accusation like this one, when you see a fellow crew member in a need of help, no matter if he/she is intoxicated or not, ALWAYS first contact the bridge and let them know about the situation (you have phones placed all over the ship’s corridor). Then you can assist your fellow crew member. I know sometimes in order to protect your fellow crew member (especially if he or she is intoxicated), you don’t want to be SAPO and assist them without telling to the supervisor. However, REMEMBER you come always first and this is how you will have an alibi in the worst case scenario.