TRIGGER WARNING: This post may contain graphic descriptions of child sex abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, call the Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1-888-421-1100. 

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains information about alleged child pornography. Report child pornography to law enforcement by contacting the ICAC Tip Line at (801) 281-1211 or your local law enforcement agency. 

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Division of Services of People With Disabilities failed in supervising offender Jonathan Soberanis and even gave him the tool he used to create more victims, according to the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Authorities have accused Soberanis of victimizing children on several occasions. However, court documents indicate he has never been convicted, in part, because of his competency evaluations. However, new evidence was presented in his latest case that made prosecutors believe the charges will stick.

After several charges were filed against Soberanis, DSPD started monitoring him but, according to AG officials, the division gave him the cell phone he used to download and share child pornography.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said they are worried he might kill a child next.

Victim’s mother speaks up

Stephanie Davis, the mother of one of Soberanis’s victims, has been actively speaking out against Soberanis after she learned he tried to get her son while he was home alone last year. She has since been nervous to tell her children that there was a chance Soberanis would be released. 

“We purposefully haven’t told them because they have a sense of security and safety knowing that Jonathan specifically is behind bars,” she said.

In this case, Soberanis was found not competent to stand trial, as an evaluator suggested he had several possible intellectual disabilities.

A look into his history

Over the years, Soberanis has been charged with voyeurism, lewdness, and assault. For each of these charges, an evaluator told the judge Soberanis was not competent and the charges were dismissed.

In 2018, Soberanis was accused of crawling under a dressing room to watch a boy undress. He showed the child his penis and then masturbated, according to the AG’s office. Later that same year, a police report states he showed his genitals to a 9-year-old boy outside of a mall restroom, asking the boy to come closer. 

In 2021, Soberanis was accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old in a bathroom and urinating on him. According to the AG’s office, a few months later the People With Disabilities Division, was assigned to watch over Soberanis. According to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, DSPD provides support to people who have disabilities, serving more than 5,000 people.

Documents filed by the AG’s office state by 2022, the division had put him on 24-hour surveillance. However, according to Soberanis’s defense attorney Tessa Mary Hansen, that did not happen.

“He wasn’t actually supervised 24/7 and his needs exceeded what a group home situation could provide,” Hansen said.

In March, Soberanis faced new charges — this time on a federal level.

Soberanis faces federal charges

In May of 2023, during his first federal detention hearing, Soberanis was accused of downloading and sharing child pornography while using a phone given to him by DSPD, according to Carl Hollan, Assistant Attorney General of the State of Utah Office of the Attorney General.

“Even while under the supervision of DSPD, and from what information I currently have, while using a phone that was given to him by DSPD,” Hollan said.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office presented this information while trying to convince a judge to not move Soberanis to the Utah State Developmental Center, a controlled facility that works with people who have intellectual disabilities. That facility, however, is overseen by the same agency that gave Soberanis a cell phone and left him unsupervised.

“Multiple children have been victimized because of the failures of DSPD to properly monitor the defendant,” Hollan said.

In contrast, in a statement made by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, they say it is not part of DSPD’s practices to provide individuals receiving services with a cell phone.

In contrast, in a statement made by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, they say it is not part of DSPD’s practices to provide individuals receiving services with a cell phone.

“DSPD has no records or receipts of a cell phone or cell phone plan connected to this individual. In addition, a cell phone and cell phone plan are not allowable expenses under federal Medicaid rules. No division of DHHS provided him with a cell phone,” the statement read. “We reject any similar implications stated in the federal court hearing.”

AG’s Office fears Soberanis might kill a child next

Hollan said when Soberanis gets caught, he often gets violent.

“What the government fears is this might be the type of defendant who is abusing a child, and then acts out to silence the child and may end up hurting or killing the child in an attempt to avoid discovery and prosecution,” Hollan said.

Looking at his history, the evidence, and the nature of the charges, Judge Jared C. Bennett said in this instance, it doesn’t matter if Soberanis is truly competent and ruled Soberanis stay in federal custody while he waits for his trial.

“I don’t think anyone is going to dispute this, he manifests a very real danger to little children. Because either he’s unwilling or unable either way, we get to the same result of dangerousness,” Bennett said.

Davis said Soberanis is right where he belongs.

“(My children) are safe from Jonathan another night because a judge sees it for what it is and not pretending that it’s something else,” she said.