Former Lansing youth group leader pleads no contest to sex assault of 3 teens
By Kara Berg
Lansing State Journal
March 10, 2020
A former youth group leader at a Lansing church pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting three teenage boys.
Jessica Leese, 36, initially was charged with seven counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
With her no contest plea Tuesday to three of the third-degree charges, the rest were dismissed. Leese told Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina she was pleading no contest for civil liability reasons.
A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as a conviction at sentencing. Leese's plea agreement set a fixed minimum prison sentence of five years.
Her attorney, Michael Maddaloni, declined to comment.
Leese was a volunteer youth group leader at Immanuel Community Reformed Church in 2016 and 2017 when she befriended several members in the group, Lansing Township Officer Aaron Lightner testified in a hearing that led to criminal charges.
The teen boys were 14, 17 and 18 at the time they said Leese sexually assaulted them, Lightner said.
During Leese's plea hearing Tuesday, Aquilina read from a police report saying Leese reached out and touched the 14-year-old's penis over his clothing and was "annoyed and irritated" when their relationship concluded.
She invited the boy over to her Lansing Township home on multiple occasions, Lightner said. She bought him video games, took him to restaurants and sexually assaulted him in her vehicle, her bedroom and her husband's truck.
The second teen was 17 when Leese sexually assaulted him, Lightner said. Leese bought him things and took him out. In one instance, she grabbed his shirt and pulled him toward her, Aquilina said at the plea hearing. She told him to pull down his pants and he refused. He said he didn't want to have sex with her, but she forced him to.
The third boy was 18, but because of Leese's position of authority over him, he was not legally able to consent, Lightner said. He told police he did not want to do anything sexual with Leese, but she was very persistent, Aquilina said.
A youth pastor at the church reported Leese to police when one of the boys told him about the assaults.
Leese is set to be sentenced April 15. If Aquilina sticks to the terms of her plea agreement, she'll be sentenced to five years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender.