SLC School Board member resigns; faces new charges in child exploitation case

Joél-Léhi Organista. Photo: Salt Lake City School Board

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 5, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Joel-Lehi Organista, the Salt Lake City School Board member arrested Wednesday on child pornography charges, resigned his position Friday — the same day officials filed additional felony charges against him.

Organista, 29, now faces charges of:

  • Object rape of a child, a first-degree felony (filed Friday)
  • Sexual exploitation of a child as a first-degree felony (filed Friday)
  • Nine counts of sexual exploitation of a child as a second-degree felony (one filed Friday, eight filed Wednesday)

The child rape charge related to a Snapchat video recorded after Organista allegedly directed a pre-teen victim to take specific inappropriate actions.

Organista is being held without bail.

“During a post Miranda interview, Jose Lehi Organista admitted to having downloaded, viewed, and kept the images and videos containing child pornography in his Dropbox account,” his probable cause statement says, adding that one video showed abuse of a girl of about 5.

During the service of a search warrant at Organista’s address, officers located electronic devices including an iPhone, an iPad and an iMac Mini, and allegedly found a Snapchat account where Organista was communicating with children identifying themselves as between 12 and 17 years old.

“In the Snapchat communications, Joel is clearly notified of the ages of the children and asks for naked photographs and directs the children to do sexual acts,” the statement says.

The four other SLC School Board members spoke to the media Wednesday.

“To engage in any such conduct or to exploit or endanger any child is indefensible,” board president Melissa Ford said.

District officials said at the time they could not fire Organista unless he was convicted.


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