A former Boys & Girls Club counselor and popular CeaseFire “violence interrupter” sexually assaulted a teenager who came to him seeking job advice, Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday.
Zale Hoddenbach, who was featured in a New York Times magazine article three years ago, gave the girl some work-related listings but allegedly told her she’d make better money taking pictures of herself in “sexy” clothing and of couples having sex.
Shortly after their October 2010 meeting, the married father of five took the then 15-year-old to a residence in Chicago where he had her take pictures of him and another woman having sex, assistant state’s attorney Jennifer Dillman said.
The girl also had shots of her taken while she was engaged in sexual activity with the other woman, Dillman said.
Hoddenbach paid the girl $200 and continued to have a sexual relationship with the teenager for several months, Dillman said.
Hoddenbach, 42, allegedly gave the girl, now 16, cash, shoes, clothing and money for her tattoo in exchange for trysts that took place between April and September in Chicago and Northbrook.
He also took explicit photographs of the victim and made her text him lewd pictures of herself, Dillman said.
When the girl said she wanted nothing to do with him, Hoddenbach threatened that he’d have the pictures disseminated to others, Dillman said.
The girl told a school counselor about the alleged abuse. Prosecutors also said they have motel receipts and text messages from the victim’s phone that corroborate her story.
Hoddenbach has prior felony convictions for delivery of a controlled substance, aggravated battery, residential burglary, robbery and theft.
His attorney, Dennis Doherty, stressed that Hoddenbach’s criminal past mostly took place in the 1980s. The former gang member has since turned his life around, Doherty said, further describing his client as one of the “most dynamic” anti-violence youth advocates.
Hoddenbach is a CeaseFire “violence interrupter” and has been featured on the BBC radio, Doherty said.
Doherty said the alleged victim was never involved with the Boys & Girls Club. She had met Hoddenbach when she ran on his team for a breast cancer awareness race several years ago and only came to him to ask him how she could get her baby back from her parents, Doherty said.
The girl “presented” herself as being 18, showed Hoddenbach her MySpace and Facebook pages and bragged about dating older men, Doherty said. “This is a blackmail case,” the defense attorney said following Tuesday’s hearing.
Hoddenbach, who has homes in the 4100 block of North LeClaire and Elmhurst, no longer works for the Boys & Girls Club, Doherty said.
He is currently a supervisor working on a violence prevention project at the University of Illinois at Chicago with CeaseFire founder Dr. Gary Slutkin.
Hoddenbach, who has a tattoo of “Casper” and Jesus,” was featured in a 2008 New York Times magazine article focusing on Slutkin’s work.
In an interview with the BBC that same year, Hoddenbach spoke of how he is able to coax youth away from violence.
“I can reveal the truth to them, I can relate to them – no one else. I can tell them the lies that were told to me,” Hoddenbach said.
“Someone from the outside with a college master’s degree is not going to be able to offer them that.
“I can give examples, look what happened to me. I have been shot, I have been to prison – nobody was there for me.”
Judge Israel Desierto ordered Hoddenbach held in lieu of $150,000 bail Tuesday.
Neither Slutkin nor officials with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago were immediately available for comment.