SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Jonathan Soberanis’s trouble with the law began in 2013 when he was 18 years old.
According to court documents, the first case involved a stolen laptop. Within a matter of years, the charges escalated to include assault. Police have also reported Soberanis sexually assaulted a 5-year-old and urinated on the child at the Lehi Legacy Center, a place he had already been banned from years prior. Court documents stated that he was banned for masturbating in the locker room.
ABC4 News obtained body camera footage of an incident in 2018 when West Valley City Police arrested him. The footage shows Soberanis, 23, wearing no shoes outside in December, running as police pull up. As the police pursue Soberanis, he can be heard saying he wants to call his mom. After a struggle, police manage to handcuff him, and Soberanis requests a lawyer.
After Soberanis is read his rights, Soberanis tells officers he knows he has a warrant out for an incident that happened in April of that year.
“I know. I’m not stupid,” Soberanis said.
In that case, he was accused of showing his genitals to a 9 year-old-boy at the South Towne Mall. A police report states that Soberanis “pulled his pants down, grabbed his penis, and while holding his penis, asked (the child) to step closer.”
But in the bodycam footage, dated December 20th, 2018, officers tell Soberanis they are detaining him over a different incident that happened four days prior. According to a West Valley City Police report, a man reported he saw Soberanis looking under his son’s bathroom stall while holding his genitals.
At the beginning of the bodycam footage, Soberanis denied all accusations. After about 15 minutes, he begins to share more information with the officer. The officer asks Soberanis if he was masturbating, and Soberanis nods. He then tells the officer he is a bad person and makes mistakes all the time.
“I might be sick, and I know I’m screwed up,” Soberanis said.
In all of the cases mentioned above, a judge dismissed the charges against Soberanis. A judge has ruled him incompetent to stand trial. Anyone can request a competency evaluation, which puts all legal proceedings on hold until it is complete. Under Utah law, in order for someone to be considered competent, they must have:
- A rational and factual understanding of the criminal proceedings against the defendant and of the punishment specified for the offense charged; and
- The ability to consult with the defendant’s legal counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding in order to assist in the defense.
In essence, they must be able to understand criminal proceedings including the punishment they face and work with their attorney to properly defend themselves. Court documents state some evaluators suggested Soberanis showed signs of autism. One evaluator recently diagnosed him with an unspecified neurodevelopmental disorder.
When a person is found incompetent to stand trial, the prosecutor can file for civil commitment. Prosecutors tell ABC4 News, more often than not, that means the person stays in the community and is monitored by local mental health authorities. Court records show prosecutors filed for Soberanis to be civilly committed a few years ago, but the records are private.
The Attorney General’s Office believes new evidence in a separate child pornography case proves Soberanis is capable. During his latest competency hearing, investigator Sarah Lundquist testified Soberanis used a New Zealand storage platform to download and share child pornography with end-to-end encryption.
Despite that information, both court-appointed evaluators testified before the judge stating Soberanis is not competent to stand trial this year.
On Tuesday, a judge will make a ruling on Soberanis’s competency surrounding two separate incidents involving children as young as 5. If he is found incompetent, he could be released but would likely not leave jail because of a separate federal case where he faces child pornography charges.