A West Texas teacher admitted to having a sexual relationship with a high school student. He also acknowledged that he enticed the 17-year-old over Snapchat, said federal officials.
Dustin Ray Leonard, 28, formerly a teacher at Slaton High School, confessed to soliciting sex from the student, a female in the 11th grade. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of enticement of a minor in federal court on Monday.
Leonard told authorities he used his smartphone to access the social media app Snapchat to coax the girl into having sex with him. Because Leonard utilized the Internet to contact the victim, authorities could file federal charges against him. Now, he faces 10 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine, and from five years to a lifetime of supervised release after completing his sentence.
Court records showed that Leonard was hired by the Slaton Independent School District on July 16, 2016. He served as a teacher and coach at the rural district’s lone high school. However, on April 12, 2018, Slaton High’s principal heard rumors that Leonard had an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old female student only referred to as “Jane Doe” in this case, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
The principal and the Slaton ISD police chief confronted Leonard about the allegation; however, the suspect initially denied any involvement with the student. Then, the school district’s superintendent received an audio recording that another student apparently made of the teacher talking to “Jane Doe.” In it, Leonard shared details about his personal life, including information about alleged “marital problems.” The principal approached Leonard again, this time to discuss the recording. Subsequently, Leonard submitted a written letter of resignation, citing personal and family concerns. On May 8, the Slaton ISD school board met and accepted his resignation, effective as of May 18.
Days later, though, an unnamed source provided Slaton police with information about Leonard’s Snapchat account. It revealed messages that indicated Leonard was having an improper relationship with Jane Doe. Detectives again interviewed Leonard. The teacher admitted that he and the 17-year-old had been sexually involved since January 2018. Leonard was arrested on May 22.
KLBK reported Jane Doe also confessed to the intimate affair. The court documents noted: “Doe stated that she truly cares for and loves Leonard.” They also said: “Leonard advised he intended to divorce his wife and continue the relationship with Doe.”
Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office records show that Leonard has been held on a U.S. Marshal detainer at the Lubbock County Detention Center since his May 22 arrest. Federal authorities said Leonard will remain in custody pending sentencing.
The Slaton Police Department, the Slaton ISD Police Department, the investigative Texas Rangers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Homeland Security Investigations collaborated on investigating this case. It was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.
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