published Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Women sue Boys & Girls Clubs, alleging sex abuse

  • photo
    This undated photo provided by the Cook County Sheriff's Department shows Zale Hoddenbach.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CHICAGO — Two women are suing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and a former counselor charged with sexually assaulting them when they were minors, contending that years before he allegedly coerced them into engaging in sexual acts with him and others, the club’s director learned he’d acted inappropriately with another girl.

Zale Hoddenbach, 44, is awaiting trial on felony charges of criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse and child pornography. Steven Rosenberg, the attorney for the women, said the charges stem from the incidents involving his clients, who are both 18.

In the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Cook County Court, one of the women alleges that Hoddenbach “used physical and verbal intimidation to force (her) into engage in sexual acts with him, alleging that she had sex with him after he threatened to post nude pictures of him on Facebook if she did not. She also alleges that he vowed to “post her nude photos online” if she told police or anyone else what happened.

The same woman says Hoddenbach had her photograph him having sex with another woman and then “pressed her” to have sexual contact with the woman while he photographed them.

The other woman alleges that when she was 15, Hoddenbach showed her videos of him having sex and told her to touch him in a sexual manner, which she did. She says he ordered her not to tell anyone.

Neither the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago nor the national headquarters in Atlanta responded to phone messages Thursday seeking comment. A phone number for Hoddenbach, who the sheriff’s department said posted bail in February, had been disconnected. A Chicago attorney who was identified as Hoddenbach’s lawyer in 2011 news reports didn’t immediately return Thursday calls for comment.

The women also allege that Hoddenbach was hired even though he had an extensive criminal record that included felony convictions and prison sentences for aggravated battery, armed robbery and other crimes.

In fact, according to Rosenberg, Hoddenbach was hired because of his criminal record, something that was well known and was included in a New York Times Magazine story about an anti-violence group in Chicago called CeaseFire. In the story, Hoddenbach was identified as a former gang member working for CeaseFire as a “violence interrupter.”

“This was their street smart program and he was hired because he could speak from authority about being a gang banger,” said Rosenberg.

The lawsuit alleges that at least three years before the 2010 and 2011 incidents, the director of the club received complaints that Hoddenbach had on a number of occasions showed a 14-year-old girl pornographic videos on his cell phone and had sent her several text messages telling her that he loved her.

The complaints were subsequently dismissed as “unfounded,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed this week amended one filed late last year by one of the women by adding the second woman as a plaintiff. The women are suing for more than $2 million.

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