Adventures with Purpose, the volunteer dive group that garnered attention last year after members recovered the body and car of missing California teenager Kiely Rodni, is in the news again for all the wrong reasons.
Founder Jared Leisek, was recently booked into a county jail in Utah after being accused of two instances of raping a 9-year-old girl in 1992. He was 16, and the child was a relative at the time.
Kathleen Bogenschutz, a criminal defense attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor in Florida, said cases like these are “incredibly serious.”
“In Florida, these kinds of crimes are considered ‘capital offenses,’ and colloquially also refer to them as capital sexual battery,” Bogenschutz explained in an extended interview with Law&Crime’s Sidebar podcast. “And the reason for that is that they’re punishable by life or death.”
In Utah, the law is mandatory imprisonment for at least five years, but it could go up to life. And before a 2008 landmark decision by the Supreme Court, the death penalty was even on the table in some states for child sexual abuse cases.
“So this is something that is not going to be washed off quickly and not dealt with quickly,” Bogenschutz said, who has also defended people accused of sex crimes during her career.
Documents allege that during the first incident, “the defendant pinned the victim to the ground,” and details penetration, according to Inside Edition. The second allegedly happened at their grandparents’ house and contained similar allegations.
Leisek also reportedly apologized in a February email to the victim, according to documents reviewed by the U.S. Sun.
His first line read: “I am so very sorry for the things that we cannot change.”
Bogenschutz said such messages don’t look good for the suspect.
“Statements that are so highly inconsistent with being innocent that I can’t imagine that he’s not held responsible for them, at least based on the contents that were reported by the media,” Bogenschutz assessed.
In his email, Leisek reportedly revealed that he was a victim as well, as a result of their specific Mormon upbringing.
“Like yourself, I was once a victim by multiple people both in and out of the family,” he wrote. “It is unfortunate when families like ours experience molestation.”
This isn’t uncommon, Bogenschutz said.
“It’s not that all of them were victims themselves, but a higher percentage than you would expect to see, were you pulling randomly from the population, were victims either as children or later on in life,” she explained.
“But at the same time, I mean, a 9-year-old — this is not something that I imagine that a jury is going to forgive,” Bogenschutz continued. “And in fact, what I would do if I were the prosecutor is I would pick a jury full of Mormons because they will want to distance themselves from this immediately.”
Bogenschutz said she doesn’t believe Leisek’s reported statements would be backed by the defense of a felicitous apology, which is conditional to benefit the affected party. The admissions are just too specific.
“I can’t imagine that that would be a defense in this kind of case. I would imagine that his age would be a mitigating factor, his age at the time, obviously,” she explained. “How many 16-year-olds kill somebody with a car and, you know, still have to do the time? How many 16 year-olds-shoot someone and still have to do the time and are charged as adults. So, you know, adult crime, adult time.”
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]