Ex-SLC school board member pleads guilty to child pornography charges

Jan 18, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:05 pm
FILE: Joel Lehi Organista, 29. (Salt Lake City School District)...
FILE: Joel Lehi Organista, 29. (Salt Lake City School District)
(Salt Lake City School District)

SALT LAKE CITY — A former member of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education has pleaded guilty to two felony counts related to the production and transportation of child pornography in federal court.

Authorities said 29-year-old Joel Lehi Organista, of Salt Lake City, entered the guilty plea agreement on Jan. 10.

Organista was previously charged in Utah’s Third District Court with nine second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of object rape of a child and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, both first-degree felonies.

These state charges were dropped in November in exchange for his guilty pleas, and he was sentenced on Tuesday to a term of 15 years to life in prison for aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, a first-degree felony, and a term of one to 15 years for enticing a minor over internet or text, a second-degree felony.

In the federal plea agreement, “Organista admitted to owning a Dropbox account which was used for downloading between 10 and 150 images of prepubescent minors,” according to a release from the Department of Justice.

Organista also admitted to using Snapchat to contact minor children and soliciting them to perform sexual acts for him via video chat, including an incident where a 13-year-old victim performed sexual acts for Organista via video chat.

Police previously said Organista “(was) clearly notified of the ages of the children and (asked) for naked photographs and (directed) the children to do sexual acts.”

Organista resigned from the SLCSD board on June 4, one day after his arrest. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of 15 years in federal prison at a hearing in May.

A Utah judge recommended penalties from state charges will run concurrently with any federal charges.

“Organista also faces a maximum possible sentence of a lifetime of supervised release after his term of incarceration is served and he will be required to register as a sex offender,” DOJ officials said.

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Ex-SLC school board member pleads guilty to child pornography charges