SLC School District asks board member to resign after child pornography arrest

Posted at 9:19 AM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 20:49:24-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School Board member Joél-Léhi Organista was arrested Wednesday night on eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor over his alleged ownership of child pornography.

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Police wrote Organista, 29, possessed pornographic images of children. One video reportedly depicted an adult male and five-year-old girl.

Officials were led to Organista through a CyberTipLine report provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A Dropbox account owned by Organista and connected to his Salt Lake County address contained at least five images or videos containing child pornography, the probable cause affidavit states.

Following his arrest, Organista admitted to having downloaded, viewed and kept the child pornography in his Dropbox account.

According to the affidavit, Organista also operated a Snapchat account where he communicated with children who identified themselves between the ages of 12-17. On the social media platform, Organista allegedly asked the children for naked photos and for them to perform sexual acts.

"Joel Lehi Organista has access to young children in his current position of trust involving grades K-12," an officer wrote in the affidavit. "Joel has shown that, through electronic means, that he frequently meets children online, solicits nude photographs from them, and has private online video conversations with them. Joel was born in Mexico and it is believed that he currently has family living in Mexico that could encourage him to flee."

Organista was elected to represent Precinct 1 on the Salt Lake City School Board. The school board's website states he was born in Mexico City before moving with his family to Salt Lake City. His personal website states Organista taught health at Horizonte High School, as well as English abroad and online, and served as Vice President of Youth at the League of United Latin American Citizens until the organization suspended him Thursday.

The Salt Lake City School District sent a formal letter asking for Organista's resignation, but the board said he had yet to respond by Thursday afternoon.

In an exclusive interview with the FOX 13 Investigates team in December, Organista promised to restore professionalism to the Salt Lake City School District after his election.

At the time, board members were in the midst of issuing apologies for inappropriate emails and text messages.

FOX 13 Investigates: Will a new board restore professionalism to the Salt Lake City School District?

“I personally don’t swear or say things like that,” Organista told FOX 13. "Our school board was exposed... I think for all of us (change) is going to be something that's going to be refreshing. It's going to hopefully be rejuvenating."