LEHI, Utah (ABC4) – A man accused of sexually abusing a five-year-old boy in a public restroom had been charged with this type of offense twice before, only to be released when the charges were dismissed.
26-year-old Jonathan Soberanis is accused of entering an occupied bathroom stall at the Lehi Legacy Center last Tuesday, exposing himself to a 5-year-old boy and urinating on him. He’s now facing seven charges, including felony child sex abuse, lewdness, and voyeurism.
In 2018, he was charged with lewdness and assault for exposing himself to a 9-year-old boy in the restroom of the South Towne Center mall in Sandy. That boy’s mother took a photo of him leaving before he slapped the phone out of her hand, but Soberanis didn’t even get a slap on the wrist.
On June 6, 2019, the Third District Court found him not competent to stand trial, and on Aug. 13, the charges were dismissed. Around that same time, West Valley City dropped charges that Soberanis committed a lewd act in front of an 8-year-old boy using the bathroom at a rec center, stating “the defendant is not competent to proceed.”
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill calls it a “loophole”.
“Releasing this person back into the community is playing Russian Roulette,” Gill told ABC4 News Monday. “We are simply setting up the next victimization and it’s been really frustrating for me as a prosecutor.”
Gill says under current law, defendants ruled not competent don’t receive adequate mental health care, supervision, or oversight. He’s been pushing for a criminal justice reform bill to fix what he calls: “A system that is so broken that that person is often released back into the community without the structured oversight and support that they need so we can at least try to minimize the danger that we’re putting our community to.”
Gill says for four years, his bill to close the loophole has not gotten enough traction to get out of committee. Until it does, defendants like Soberanis are likely to stay on the arrested/charged/released merry-go-round.
“We are just simply playing Russian Roulette because there will be another victim and there will be a horrific crime,” Gill said. “For us to throw our hands up and say ‘Geez it’s just a failure in our system’ is not going to be very satisfying to that victim or their family or should be to us as a community.”
Soberanis is currently being held without bail at the Utah County Jail.