EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 16, 2013

Jailed at 19

Son of deputy police chief admits to robbery with dad's gun

LAWRENCE — Jamel Bonilla, the 19-year-old son of Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, yesterday pleaded guilty to his role in 2010 drug deal that fell apart and was sentenced to 18 months in Middleton Jail.

Bonilla pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm, a silver handgun that belonged to his father, and two counts armed robbery. Judge John Lu sentenced the 2011 Lawrence High School graduate to 18 months in the jail, the minimum mandatory jail sentence for the firearms charge, followed by four years of probation when he’s released.

While he’s on probation, Bonilla must refrain from using any illegal drugs, including marijuana, submit to random drug testing and stay away from the two men he robbed on Oct. 21, 2010 on Caulkins Court in Lawrence.

The armed robbery charges carried a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Bonilla, dressed in khaki pants, black hooded sweatshirt and sneakers, was handcuffed and shackled by court officers and taken to Middleton Jail after pleading guilty at noontime yesterday. His father was not at the court proceeding.

“Mr. Bonilla is pleased this matter is over. He has taken responsibility for his actions and looks forward to becoming a productive member of society when he finishes his sentence,” said his defense attorney, Alex Cain of Andover.

Prior the Caulkins Court incident, Jamel Bonilla had no criminal record.

Bonilla and two other men were charged after the home invasion on Caulkins Court. Promised immunity from prosecution, Deputy Chief Bonilla admitted the gun Jamel had with him that day belonged to him. It was never clear how Jamel obtained the weapon, however. State law requires all firearms “be stored in a secured, locked container or equipped with a tamper resistant mechanical lock or other safety devices property engaged as to render the weapon inoperable by unlawful users.”

Prosecutors described the incident as a drug deal that fell apart. The two victims agreed to pay $3,000 for 200 Percocet prescription pills. Co-defendants Jonathan Vargas, 24, and Joseph Rodriguez, 20, both from Lawrence, did not plead guilty with Bonilla.

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