Marta San Jose, a former foreign-exchange student accused of helping her Miami sponsor sexually abuse her own underage sister, got a generous offer from prosecutors: Complete a program for first-time offenders and the case will be dropped.
San Jose has rejected the deal.
So prosecutors on Friday, after eight months of plea negotiations, announced they will formally charge the 21-year-old Spanish national with allegations of sex crimes.
After the brief hearing on Friday, defense attorney Jorge Viera refused to comment. San Jose, who is free on bail, slapped a TV news cameraman’s gear while walking through the courthouse hallway. “What the f**k,” she said, angrily.
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San Jose, for now, is facing felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor.
She was offered entrance into what is known as the “Pretrial Intervention” program, which would entail completing therapy before the case is dismissed. Miami-Dade prosecutor Jessie Friedman told the court that charges will be filed next week.
Police in June arrested San Jose and her former host, Dale Leary, on allegations they lured the woman's underage sister to their Cutler Bay home, where she was manipulated into performing sex acts and illicit photo shoots.
Whether the younger sister, the listed victim who is currently in Spain, cooperates with prosecutors remains to be seen – her testimony would be key to a successful prosecution.
The case put a spotlight on the lack of oversight with programs that bring exchange students to the United States — Leary hosted multiple female students despite a rape conviction on his record.
Leary, a tech and advertising consultant, killed himself shortly after posting bail to await trial, a bizarre twist to an already strange case. He and his former wife, Claudia Leary, a Miami-Dade schools administrator, hosted numerous foreign-exchange students over the years.
San Jose was placed at their home in 2013, and the Learys convinced 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.
“She came at the age of 16, alone in this country, and was manipulated at such a young age by this man,” defense attorney Viera said in July. “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.”
But Claudia remained living with them in the Cutler Bay home. She tried killing herself alongside Dale Leary but survived. Police are now investigating what role she may have played in Leary's conduct with foreign-exchange students.
San Jose and other students were placed in the Leary home by CCI Greenheart, a foreign-exchange nonprofit based in Chicago.