A prosecutor says he’s getting more youthful sex-offense cases. But nothing, he says, has matched a recent one in which a Sheridan High School quarterback had sex with an underage teen while a friend hid in a closet recording it.
Authorities believe the video was sent on Snapchat, a social media messaging app, to at least one if not more people, but it has not been recovered.
“The facts of this case are pretty unique,” said Justin Ekwall, a deputy county attorney in Madison County.
The player, 17-year-old Moxon Lee of Laurin, was initially charged as an adult with sexual intercourse without consent for having sex with a 15-year-old girl at his friend’s apartment in Sheridan on Sept. 9.
His case was later moved to Youth Court and he pleaded guilty March 18 to accountability to surreptitious visual observation or recordation as a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to one year of probation and is barred from any social media not related to school.
His friend, Tristen Michael Horn, was 18 at the time of the incident and admitted to hiding in the closet and recording the sex act.
According to a charging affidavit, he signed a written statement to police saying he sent the video via Snapchat, a mobile messaging app that can delete messages shortly after they are viewed, to Lee and another person.
In a deal with prosecutors, Horn pleaded guilty March 18 to felony criminal endangerment and misdemeanor surreptitious visual observation, but he did not admit to sending the video to others, Ekwall said. The felony carries a maximum 10-year sentence and fine up to $50,000, the misdemeanor up to six months in jail.
Prosecutors are recommending a $5,000 fine and a deferred sentence, which could mean up to six years of probation. District Court Judge Luke Berger ordered a presentence investigation first and will sentence him later.
Ekwall said he would have pushed for harsher penalties but the girl was almost 16 years old — the age of consent — and Lee was only about a year older. He also considered the wishes of the girl’s mother.
“She basically said something to the effect that if not for the age, it was consensual (sex) and they wanted to move on from this,” Ekwall said. “They were both kids and they were all kind of friends before all this.”
According to prosecutors, Lee and the girl went to Horn’s apartment on a Sunday to have sex and Lee told her nobody was home — something she found “weird.”
She said later that Lee had been bragging to his friends about it but she “didn’t really care” because that’s “what guys do.” She also said she heard rumors about the video around school.
When questioned by police, Lee admitting having sex with the girl but said they were the only two in the apartment and he didn’t know she was under 16. He said he had no idea how she got the idea there was a video.
Lee admitted later that he knew Horn was in the closet at the time but didn’t know he was recording. But in his plea before Berger, he admitted receiving the video via Snapchat, Ekwall said.
Ekwall said the video has not been recovered and he hopes it never is.
Jill Gannon-Nagle, a public defender who represented Lee, said he was obviously remorseful.
“Of course he is,” she said. “He’s a kid.”
Sheridan School Superintendent Micheal Wetherbee said Lee was not suspended and was able to participate in school athletics after the incident. He said Horn does not attend Sheridan High School.
“We’re still in America where you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty,” Wetherbee said, noting that guilt was not established until later.
“It’s pretty hard to act on something that is outside the school but it’s in the courts,” he said. “I can’t say it wasn’t dealt with. … We did some counseling.”
Horn was initially charged with two felony counts of sexual abuse of children, two counts of misdemeanor obscenity and one misdemeanor count of surreptitious visual observation or recordation. Because the victim was under 16, the felony counts were each punishable by up to life in prison or 100 years.
If the judge follows the plea agreement for a deferred sentence, Horn could not possess or access any pornographic material or any pictures of the teen girl and probation officers could inspect any internet-capable device he had.
Deferred sentences allow defendants, if they follow all probation rules, to have their convictions erased.