Prosecutors on Thursday held off on formally charging a former Cutler Bay foreign-exchange student accused of helping her one-time host and husband molest her younger sister.
Marta San Jose, 21, still in a jail jumpsuit, appeared in court for the first since her husband, 50-year-old Dale Leary, killed himself earlier this month after posting bail in a bizarre case that has attracted international attention. Her arraignment was rescheduled for next week.
Afterward, her defense attorney told reporters that he is asking prosecutors to drop the case because San Jose, a former Palmetto High student from Spain, is also one of Leary’s victims.
“She came at the age of 16, alone in this country, and was manipulated at such a young age by this man,” attorney Jorge Viera said. “A girl who never even had a boyfriend before. This man took advantage of her, brainwashed her and manipulated her. She should not be a defendant.”
Never miss a local story.
Detectives are conducting a widening probe into Leary, a tech and advertising consultant who hosted numerous foreign-exchange students along with his first wife, Claudia Leary, a Miami-Dade schools administrator.
San Jose was placed at their home in 2013, and the couple later persuaded her parents to allow her to remain in Miami. Unbeknownst to her family, Claudia Leary divorced her husband, who turned around and married San Jose days after she turned 18.
Claudia remained living in the Cutler Bay home. Police said Dale Leary and San Jose persuaded the Spanish parents to allow her 14-year-old sister to visit Miami in 2014, where she was manipulated into performing sex acts and illicit photo shoots.
Miami-Dade police arrested Leary and San Jose in June. Right after Leary left jail on bond, he killed himself on July 4 by running a hose into the interior of his car — with Claudia by his side. She survived, but now detectives have focused on what role, if any, Claudia played in potential misconduct with foreign-exchange students.
On Thursday, the judge in the case ordered Claudia Leary, who has since been released from the hospital, to stay away from San Jose if she posts bond to await trial. Claudia Leary paid a portion of San Jose’s legal bills, the judge heard on Thursday.
And after the suicide, police found “messages” that were left around the home for San Jose, and documents that suggested the Learys wanted to talk to the young woman after she left jail. Prosecutor Jessie Friedman said it was still unclear who hatched the suicide plan.
“Ms. Leary appeared to be very involved in what occurred with Mr. Leary’s suicide,” Friedman told Circuit Judge Richard Hersch.
Investigators are also examining how Dale Leary became a host despite a felony conviction for sexually attacking a woman during a home-invasion robbery in 1985. In response to questions from the Herald, Chicago-based CCI Greenheart, the foreign-exchange nonprofit that placed students with the Learys, has declined to detail the extent of the background searches performed on the couple.
On Wednesday, the Miami-Dade school district passed a resolution calling on the federal government to toughen background screenings of foreign-exchange hosts.