Crime

Lenny Jones has been accused of child molestation before, records show

Lawrence "Lenny" Jones was in court Thursday, April 23, 2015, for an arraignment on child molestation charges.
Lawrence "Lenny" Jones was in court Thursday, April 23, 2015, for an arraignment on child molestation charges. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Arroyo Grande Citizen of the Year Lawrence “Lenny” Jones faced similar allegations of child molestation 20 years ago, but a charge filed against him was dismissed, court records show.

Jones, 63, was back in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Thursday morning to enter not guilty pleas to four additional felony charges filed after investigators identified a fourth suspected victim earlier this week.

Jones now faces a total of eight felony and two misdemeanor charges based on crimes allegedly committed during or around a March 22 birthday party that Jones hosted at his Arroyo Grande home.

According to court records, Jones was charged in August 1995 with misdemeanor molesting or annoying a child based on a criminal case initially investigated by the Arroyo Grande Police Department.

Records show that Jones at the time retained attorney Chris Casciola. In December 1995, that case was dismissed on a request by the District Attorney’s Office. However, the dismissal was conditional for two years, pending Jones’ completion of unspecified counseling.

Records show he fulfilled the conditions of the court.

However, no police or investigators reports are available for details of that case; case documents were purged in 2010, records show.

Arroyo Grande Police Chief Steve Annibali on Thursday did not have any information about Jones’ 1995 case; the investigator and any officers who would have been involved have long since retired.

Casciola could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In the current case, three victims — girls ages 6, 9 and 12, according to San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla — were allegedly molested at the party.

The District Attorney’s Office filed six charges, including oral copulation and sexual penetration with a child under 10 years old, kidnapping for the purpose of child molestation, lewd acts with a child under the age of 14 and destruction of evidence.

On Monday, the Sheriff’s Office announced that a fourth victim, a 3-year-old boy, had been identified based on explicit material discovered on a computer allegedly belonging to Jones and confiscated during a search of his home.

On Thursday, prosecutors filed additional felony charges of child molestation and false imprisonment, as well as two counts of using a minor for a sexual act.

Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham explained Thursday that the latter two charges have to do with filming a child committing a sexual act.

Jones, who has retained attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu, has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Cipolla said Wednesday that the boy whom the charges are based on was also in attendance at the party hosted by Jones. Cipolla would not provide details of the party other than to confirm that other adults, including at least some of the alleged victims’ parents, were present at the party, but at some point Jones was left alone with the children.

Cipolla said he could not disclose any other details in order to protect the identities of the victims and their families. He said the investigation remains ongoing.

In January, the Jones, a longtime local realtor, was named Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, based on his community volunteerism.

Judith Bean, CEO of the organization, said Thursday that the board of directors will discuss at its regular meeting next week whether to repeal that title before Jones’ case is resolved.

Jones is due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on April 28 but until then remains in custody at San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail.

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