Who is Joel-Lehi Organista? Utah school board member allegedly exploited minors sexually, kept child porn

Joel-Lehi Organista allegedly asked children between the ages of 12 and 17 for naked photos and requested they perform sex acts


                            Who is Joel-Lehi Organista? Utah school board member allegedly exploited minors sexually, kept child porn
Joel-Lehi Organista faces eight counts of sexual exploitation (Salt Lake City School District)

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: A Salt Lake City school board member has been arrested on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor after he was allegedly found in possession of images of child pornography, including some with children as young as 5 years old.

Joél-Léhi Organista, a newly elected member of the school district board was booked into jail on Wednesday, June 2. Although he has not been formally charged, he is being held on suspicion of eight felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

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An investigation into Organista was launched after the police were tipped off by a CyberTipLine report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Investigators found a Dropbox account that the suspect owned containing at least five child porn images, according to the arrest report says.

Documents say that one of the pictures depicted an adult man sexually assaulting a young girl. The report also details a Snapchat account belonging to the suspect through which he communicated with children who said they were between the ages of 12 and 17. He allegedly asked them for naked photos and requested they perform sex acts.

Who is Joél-Léhi Organista?

Joél-Léhi Organista (LinkedIn)

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Organista is the youngest person to ever have been elected to Salt Lake City’s school board. His campaign website states that Organista was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was a kid. He studied from the Salt Lake City School District, and later graduated from West High.

His page notes that he taught health at Horizonte High. It is likely that he got the position at the school by volunteering through an education nonprofit since there are no HR records of his employment. According to his LinkedIn page notes that he also served as a mentor at West High in the district from May 2015 to June 2016.

He previously served as an instructor at the University of Utah in the Ethnic Studies Department. After that, he became a youth leader for the National League of United Latin American Citizens in 2018. He has been suspended from that role by the organization.

Calls for Joél-Léhi Organista's resignation

The illicit interactions and downloads reportedly occurred between January — when Organista took his position on the Salt Lake City School District’s board of education — and the start of June. The board’s leadership called on Organista to resign after the accusations became public on Thursday, June 3. 

“As individual school board members whose duty it is to protect and enrich the lives of children, we condemn the crimes of which Mr. Organista has been accused,” said the president of board, Melissa Ford, in a news conference. “To engage in any such conduct or to exploit or endanger any child is indefensible.”

She added that the board leadership did not have the power to remove Organista from his position. The most that other members can do is vote to censure him in case he chooses to remain in his seat for his full four-year term. However, if he is convicted on a felony charge, it would lead to his removal from public office. Organista has, however, been banned from stepping on any school district property.

According to a probable cause statement for his arrest, police say Organista has “admitted to having downloaded, viewed and kept the images and videos containing child pornography.”

“For our board, that’s enough,” said spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin. “There’s not a gray area.” Organista is currently being held without bail because the police have asked the judge to keep him in jail as he “has access to young children in his current position of trust involving grades K-12.”

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