Cruise ship worker sentenced by Juneau court to five years for sex assault

Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla appears in Juneau Superior Court on July 22, 2015, for his arraignment on charges of sexual assault. A crew member on the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship, Moran Bonilla was accused and later convicted and sentenced for assaulting another crew member while the ship was in Icy Strait, west of Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

A cruise ship worker who was found guilty of two counts of second-degree sexual assault for groping a fellow crew member has been sentenced to five years in prison.

 

Eduar Klay Moran Bonilla, a Honduran native, was sentenced last month by Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez to two five-year terms to be served concurrently, plus one day to be served consecutively.

Bonilla received credit for time already served and, according to a transcript from the sentencing hearing, will be deported upon his release from prison. He must register as a sex offender for life.

Bonilla, 40 at the time, was arrested after a July 12, 2015 incident in which a comedian on board the Celebrity Millennium reportedly stopped the assault before it could escalate further.

During Bonilla’s trial in Juneau in October 2015, Rodney Johnson testified he heard the sounds of a struggle and opened a door that led to the crew members’ stairwell. When he opened the door, he said he saw the victim struggling to get free from Bonilla, who was holding her from behind with one hand on her waist.

Bonilla released the woman, who thanked Johnson and left the area. Johnson testified that Bonilla, who speaks very little English, told him the victim was his girlfriend.

The victim testified that she had been drinking, but was not impaired, and that Bonilla grabbed her when she was returning to her cabin. She said that he “nuzzled” her neck and was whispering to her to be quiet. She said he was groping her and trying to pull her leggings down, touching her breasts and buttocks. She told the jury that she told him “Stop” and “No” many times. At some point, she testified that she kicked him in the stomach to try and get away.

In his own defense, Bonilla testified that he had noticed the victim trying to walk back to her cabin, and that she was staggering from side to side and then slipped on the stars. He said that he ran and pushed her up to keep her from falling, and that she began panicking for an unknown reason. He said that he touched her on the shoulder in an attempt to reassure her, denying that he touched her breast or genitals or that he touched her with a sexual intent. Bonilla also denied telling Johnson that the victim was his girlfriend.

Bonilla’s attorney, Juneau Assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer, argued that the victim was a questionable witness who told several different stories to the jury, the grand jury and officers as to the specific details of the assault. Ayer also strove to convince the jury that it was unclear whether Bonilla actually touched the victim’s genitals and breast.

Jurors, after deliberating, found Bonilla guilty on two counts of sexual assault in the second degree.

After the trial, Menendez denied a defense motion to have sentencing referred to a statewide three-judge panel.

• Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or at liz.kellar@juneauempire.com.

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