• Feds charge local cheer coach with child porn, find evidence of child molestation

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    Cheer coach, Leonard Lewis, 32, is now charged in U.S. District Court with transportation of child pornography.

    Lewis was arrested at London Gatwick Airport in March. According to charging documents, border agents checked his cell phone because he was a Level 1 registered sex offender.

    On Monday, in response to a statement from KIRO 7 News, USA Gymnastics announced that Lewis was banned from being involved in their events.

    "Earlier today, Leonard Lewis, Jr., who was not a member of USA Gymnastics, was placed on USA Gymnastics’ list of individuals permanently ineligible for membership at the direction of the U.S. Center for SafeSport," Leslie King of USA Gymnastics said in a written statement.

    Lewis already was charged in King County Superior Court with possession of child pornography in March.

    Investigators finished searching all of his electronic devices and found more than 5,000 images and more than 2,000 videos of child pornography, according to Homeland Security Investigators.

    Homeland Security sent out release in June, looking for possible victims of child pornography linked to Lewis.

    KIRO 7 has learned two victims came forward with allegations they had been victimized by Lewis. One victim says he was molested by Lewis when Lewis worked at a gym in Redmond several years ago. The alleged abuse happened multiple times and took place at the victim's house while his parents were home. The other victim says Lewis persuaded him to send naked photographs in 2016-2017 while he was a student at a gym in Louisville, Kentucky. 

    Colleen Long, the CEO of Tech Gymnastics, provided KIRO 7 with this statement: 

    "While Leonard Lewis worked for us he was backgrounded checked and passed. In September of 2017 we were contacted by on Officer from Mercer Island and told that Leonard Lewis was on probation for a pornography charge in 2011, it was a misdemeanor conviction that was expugnable. He was cleared to work with children if other adults were always in the facility when he was coaching.  We were concerned about this news but Mr. Lewis had been a good employee and at that time was recovering from an injury that he received preventing a student from a bad fall. With this information and since Mr. Lewis had passed a background check, and had been a good employee, we continued to allow Mr. Lewis to work but  only under supervision when other coaches were present.  At the beginning of February we discovered Mr. Lewis was red flagged by USASF. It was discovered he had falsified his background check and he was immediately not permitted in our facility. 

    In our facility we have always maintained that no employee coaches unless other adults are present, all classes must always be visible, parents are allowed to watch at any and all times, students are not allowed to be transported by coaches to and from gym or competitions, and no contact or socializing with students by text or email or on social media unless parents are included. 

    Currently our program background checks include finger print and additionally they are backgrounded checked through."

    Previous coverage:

    Prosecutors have charged Lenny Lewis, Jr. with possession of child pornography after Lewis was caught by Border Force officers in England in March.

    Lewis, 32, worked at Tech Gymnastics and All Star Cheer in Woodinville until February. The owner of the gym told KIRO 7 she asked Lewis to leave when she discovered he'd misrepresented himself on a background check. 

    According to charging documents, border investigators in England found images of child pornography on a cellphone belonging to Lewis on March 1 when he entered the country. They checked his phone because records showed he was a level 1 sex offender. 

    They also seized two laptop computers, a hard drive and a Sony PlayStation 4.

    Instead of filing charges, England deported him, back to Sea-Tac. The cellphone and computers were given to the pilot of the flight to turn over to federal authorities at Sea-Tac. Lewis was arrested by federal agents with Homeland Security at Sea-Tac on March 2.

    According to charging documents, this is the second time Lewis has faced child pornography charges. He was convicted of attempted possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct following an arrest in 2011. His roommate found pornographic images on his laptop after Lewis borrowed it; the roommate turned it over to Kent police.

    Lewis has been required to register as a Level 1 sex offender since January 2012.

    After his latest arrest, Lewis was booked into the King County Jail with bail set at $100,000. He's out on bond, though prosecutors fear he is a flight risk.

    The terms of his release prohibit him from having contact with minors or from using a computer without a computer monitoring system that tracks his access to illegal depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

    The owner of Tech Gymnastics and All Star Cheer, Colleen Long, told KIRO-7 she'd had problem with the background check system. Long says she let Lewis input his own personal information and he passed the background check. She says she found he had misrepresented himself and asked him to leave in January. 

    "This is always shocking when something like this happens," said Long, " You  always have to be vigilant and have policies in place that keep what's happening within your facility safe."

    Long says coaches are never alone with children and that all communication with children on digital media, includes their parents.

    Parents who had children at the gym told KIRO-7 they are frustrated and believe the owner found out about Lewis months before he was let go.   They say the gym was alerted by Mercer Island Police when they were checking on Lewis and his registered sex offender status and verifying his employment last fall. 

    "I feel lied to and betrayed," said Rhiann McDonald whose daughter cheered at the gym,"We weren't given the opportunity to protect our children, to make an informed choice of how to continue in the sport of cheerleading."

    McDonald says a few other coaches quit, frustrated Lewis was allowed to stay as long as he did.  

    Tech Gymnastics and All Star Cheer sent an email to all families about Lewis this afternoon, hours after KIRO-7 first contacted the owner for comment.

    KIRO-7 spoke to the suspect’s father, Leonard Lewis, Sr., on Wednesday, “Just at a loss for words for that, really disappointing,” said Leonard Lewis Sr, “Just heart broken. I just don’t know what to think. Just a huge disappointment for me.”

    Leonard Lewis Sr. is a very well-known cheer coach in the area.  

    When asked if he was surprised his son was hired as a coach with a previous conviction for child pornography, “Yes, I thought maybe because of everything he’s gone through, all of the things they did for him in court, and it was so long ago, everything was fine. That was wrong,” said Leonard Lewis, Sr.

    Lenny Lewis, Jr. is scheduled to be in court on June 26th. 

    On Friday, USA Gymnastics sent the following statement to KIRO 7 News:

    "USA Gymnastics cannot comment publicly on membership matters unless an action taken involves a public result, such as being placed on the list of individuals whose membership is suspended or who is permanently ineligible for membership.  

    Earlier today, USA Gymnastics suspended the membership of Colleen Long and revoked member club status for Tech Gymnastics and All Star Cheer in Woodinville, Wash.  USA Gymnastics membership requirements state that a member club cannot associate in any way with a person who is permanently ineligible for membership in the national organization or who is listed on a sex offender list.

    Lenny Lewis, Jr., who was arrested on possession of child pornography, is not a member of USA Gymnastics."

    Homeland Security Investigations is investigating and asks that anyone with relevant information, information on potential victims or concerns call HSI Seattle at (206) 442-1469 or email information to hsiseattletips@ice.dhs.gov.  

     


     

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