CARLSBAD — A 24-year-old man convicted of engaging in sexual relations with a teenage girl at a Carlsbad elementary school will have to register as a sex offender for life, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Nov. 9.
Judge Daniel Goldstein said the one unique factor in the case was that the crime occurred on school grounds, which he said coupled with the fact the victim clearly appears to be underage warranted sexual offender registration by Leo Burns Welnick.
Welnick, of Carlsbad, pleaded guilty in September to one felony count of oral copulation by a person over 21 on someone under the age of 16 and false imprisonment in connection with a June incident at Magnolia Elementary School with a then-15-year-old Carlsbad girl.
Additionally, Welnick received 365 days in county jail and will be placed on three years probation. He has credit for 183 days served in jail.
In accordance to his plea deal, two felony charges — forcible oral copulation and kidnapping — were dismissed. Welnick had faced more than a decade in prison.
Deputy District Attorney Elisabeth Silva said one of the considerations for the plea agreement was protecting the victim from having to testify at trial.
In a Vista courtroom filled with approximately 20 family and friends of Welnick, the teenage victim and her mother addressed the court.
“His actions have ruined our family,” the victim’s mother told the court. “He’s sick and I will forever hate him.”
The teenage girl, who wiped back her tears, said anytime she hears the name “Leo” she begins to cry.
“You’ve brought nothing but shame to your family name,” the victim said as she addressed Welnick, who stood behind the opaque glass of the courtroom’s holding cell in his jail jumpsuit. “Because of you, I lost my innocence.”
Welnick’s attorney, Brad Patton, told the court his client suffered from bipolar disorder and at the time of the incident had stopped taking his medication. Patton said he believed Welnick’s mental illness got worse around that time due to the breakup with his long-term girlfriend, who was older than him.
Following the sentencing, Patton said the outcome was as good as gets. He said Welnick had admitted to police that he had sexual relations with the victim who he believed to be 17.
“It was a fair result,” Patton said. “I do not think he should be a lifetime sex registrant.”
Patton said the act between Welnick and the victim was consensual. “I think one of the realities is teenagers in high school engage in sexual relations,” he said.
The victim said Welnick overheard her and her friend discussing oral sex, at which time she was advising her friend not to engage in it with her boyfriend.
Prosecutors alleged Welnick grabbed the victim’s legs and arms, and wrapped them around him and then moved her to a secluded area of the playground where he forced her to give him oral sex. However, Patton said the girl had instigated the movement by wrapping herself around Welnick.
With her friend a short distance away, the victim had ample opportunity to remove herself from the situation, Patton said. “She did not yell, scream, hit, punch, say no; she didn‘t do anything,” he said.
Further, Patton said the reason Welnick was on the school grounds that evening was to walk his dog, which he did on a regular basis.