UTAH (ABC4) — Every time Jonathan Soberanis faced serious charges such as crimes against children, a judge had dismissed his case, ruling that he was not competent to stand trial. In his latest case, the Utah Attorney General’s Office argued Soberanis may be exaggerating his developmental difficulties.
In the past, evaluators have said Soberanis shows signs of autism, most recently diagnosing him with an unspecified neurodevelopmental disorder. The Attorney General’s Office said new evidence in a separate child pornography case shows Soberanis is capable.
That evidence included investigators testifying Soberanis used a New Zealand storage platform to download and distribute child pornography with end-to-end encryption. Investigators also testified Soberanis was able to work alone at the mall and was recorded helping customers, including selling items with a tablet and completing a transaction with no help.
“Mr. Soberanis has recently demonstrated some higher-order thought, including showing some understanding that his recent actions should be hidden and an ability to take steps to cover his tracks,” said Judge Sean Peterson on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Soberanis’s most recent case involves two incidents, including one where he is accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old at the Lehi Legacy Center, a facility he was banned from in 2015 for masturbating in the locker room, according to court documents.
While Peterson stated Soberanis has shown inconsistencies in his abilities, he also noted that several evaluators have deemed him incompetent. In at least six separate cases, a judge dismissed charges against Soberanis because he was deemed incompetent.
While the judge again ruled Soberanis incompetent, he did something no other judge has done. He ordered Soberanis to undergo restorative treatment.
“There may be a substantial probability that the defendant’s competency may be restored in the foreseeable future,” Peterson said.
The judge also granted the Attorney General’s request to place Soberanis in a secure setting while he undergoes restoration treatment.
In 90 days, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services will report back to the judge on his progress. If DHHS determines he cannot be restored to competency, the court has to release him. However, he would likely remain in a secure facility because he is also facing federal child pornography charges.