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Shane Leonelli

Six members of the Tooele High School baseball team were charged Thursday with sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.

The two adults and four juveniles were on a team trip to St. George for a tournament in March when they allegedly participated in sexual misconduct with a girl in a hotel room and videotaped the incident.

The two adults, Matthew Gomez and Shane Leonelli, both 18, were charged in Washington County's 5th District Court. Gomez was also charged with sodomy, a class B misdemeanor. Leonelli is a cousin of former head coach Shanz Leonelli, who resigned June 4 after word of the videotape scandal and subsequent police investigation broke.

The juvenile cases will be handled in Tooele County's juvenile court.

Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle said according to law, juveniles are charged in the cities where they live, while adults are charged where the alleged crime occurred. If the juvenile cases go to trial, the trials will be held in the jurisdiction where they occurred.

Even though the adult case proceedings will be held in St. George, Searle said he had been deputized by the Washington County Attorney's Office and would be handling the case for the state.

Arrest warrants for Gomez and Leonelli were issued Thursday. Both men arranged to surrender to authorities at the Tooele County Jail Thursday afternoon, where they were booked and then released after posting a small bail. An initial court date for both was set for July 22.

The alleged incident happened March 11, when the Tooele High baseball team went to St. George for a tournament. The team stayed at the Bluffs Inn Motel.

Coach Leonelli made a bed check between 10:30 and 11 p.m., according to court documents.

After bed check, Gomez left his room and joined Shane Leonelli and four other boys between the ages of 15 and 17. Also in the room was a 15-year-old girl who was in St. George attending a softball tournament with her team, according to court documents.

From about midnight until 4 a.m., the girl was involved in sexual contact with several of the boys in the room, starting with Leonelli, court documents state.

While Leonelli was involved with sexual contact with the girl, a 15-year-old baseball team member started videotaping the encounter, court documents say.

The camera recorded "several instances of sexual contact between several of the males and the lone female," according to court documents, including fondling. The girl was partially nude during part of the taping.

All of the sexual conduct was consensual and all parties knew the incidents were being filmed, according to court documents.

The next day, other members of the baseball team were invited to watch the tape, but most walked out of the room after viewing it for 30 seconds, according to court documents.

Searle said the charges followed numerous discussions with investigators and the Washington County Attorney's Office. There was also discussion about whether the girl should face charges. Although all the sexual acts were consensual, Searle said his office felt the girl was more a victim.

"It appears from our looking at the videotape she was somewhat hesitant to begin with, but as time went on those barriers were broken down," he said while stressing again that the incidents were consensual. "There was no force, no threats."

The sexual misconduct incident and subsequent media coverage has sparked an outcry among many Tooele residents. Members of the Tooele School Board referred all comments to the superintendent's office, although one said it was a "sad day for Tooele."

The superintendent's office, which was in the process of moving into a new building Thursday, could not be reached for comment.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com