Former Redlands AYSO coach Jonathan Jeremy Ledesma, 41, was sentenced on May 23, 2023 to three years in county prison for having unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl, whom he previously coached. (Photo courtesy of the Redlands Police Department)
Redlands AYSO has long been a place where families and their children come together to not just play, coach and referee soccer games, but to connect in the spirit of community, often forging lifelong friendships.
But that community was shattered in March 2022 when Jonathan Jeremy Ledesma, a Redlands AYSO coach for a decade, was arrested on suspicion of having sex with a 14-year-old girl he had known for five years and previously coached.
“It was almost like somebody died. That’s how we feel even to this day. The person we thought we knew is dead,” said Esther Cash, whose 14-year-old daughter has been playing in Redlands AYSO since she was 6 years old and whose family knew, and trusted, Ledesma for five years.
Ledesma, who had been married for 17 years at the time of his arrest and has three daughters who played in Redlands AYSO, was sentenced in San Bernardino Superior Court on May 23 to three years in “county prison,” a county jail where inmates serve state prison sentences.
In a plea agreement with prosecutors on March 14, Ledesma, 41, pleaded no contest to one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16.
Prosecutors alleged Ledesma had sex repeatedly with his victim from Feb. 6 to March 17, 2022 — the day he was arrested. Under terms of his plea agreement, five additional felony charges were dismissed.
Additionally, Ledesma, who has been in custody at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, will not be required to register as a sex offender, District Attorney Jason Anderson said.
Slapped in the face
During Ledesma’s May 23 sentencing, Judge Colin Bilash told Ledesma he will be given a “fresh start” once he’s released from custody, according to some Redlands AYSO parents who were present during the sentencing, including Ledesma’s wife and one of his daughters.
Bilash would not allow any of the parents — including Ledesma’s daughter and wife, who has since filed for divorce — to give impact statements saying how his actions damaged their lives.
“I felt like the judge slapped his ex-wife and children in the face,” said Jeanie Lohr, whose two daughters were coached by Ledesma. “How is this possible? He gets a fresh start but all these other people will live with the ramifications of his choices.”
Neither the victim nor anyone from her family attended the sentencing, but Ledesma did apologize to her and her family prior to his sentencing, according to those present during the hearing.
Cash was outraged that Ledesma will not have to register as a sex offender. She’s concerned he will show up at future games.
“He has a no-contact order for the victim, but nothing else. It was just for the victim,” she said. Cash said she considered Ledesma family, and said he had hosted her husband’s 50th birthday party in December 2021.
“When we were called and were told that (Ledesma) had been caught with another soccer player I started crying, because obviously your first thought is if my child was affected,” Cash said.
She said Ledesma did not just damage his victim, but all those who came to know and trust him within the tight-knit AYSO community.
“There’s the victim this occurred to, but there’s the other victims who will never forget this, the other players, the parents who will never be able to trust a coach again,” Cash said.
AYSO officials said Ledesma had been a registered volunteer with the organization from 2012 through 2022 and was coaching for Redlands AYSO at the time of his arrest.
Caught in the act
Redlands police discovered Ledesma having sex with the victim in the backseat of his car, near Fairway Drive and Country Club Drive, about 4 a.m. on March 17, 2022.
Ledesma, according to police, told the arresting officers the victim was his girlfriend. The girl told police that, since she turned 14, she and Ledesma had met up for sex multiple times in the prior two-month period.
Police found text messages of a sexual nature on phones belonging to both Ledesma and the victim, corroborating what the girl had told them.
Ledesma, according to police, met the victim when he coached her at age 9, and although he was not coaching her at the time of his arrest, he apparently had been providing the girl private lessons periodically, police spokesman Carl Baker said.
In a telephone interview, Anderson said the offense Ledesma pleaded no contest to did not require him to register as a sex offender, leaving that option to the discretion of the prosecutor and the judge.
And while he understands why some parents would be upset over not being able to address Ledesma in open court during his sentencing, Anderson said that, per statute, victim impact statements are specifically reserved for victims, their immediate family members or a representative of the victim’s choosing.
Prosecutors weighed their options and the fine line they had to walk in considering the evidence, as well as any potential trauma the victim could further endure should she have to testify against Ledesma at a trial, Anderson said.
So, prosecutors opted to secure a conviction that required county prison time and alleviated any potential further emotional pain for the victim, the district attorney said.
Anderson believes the trade-off of not forcing Ledesma to register as a sex offender, but having him serve prison time, was worth it.
“When you’ve got somebody with no record going to prison, that right there is a pretty good trade-off,” Anderson said.
Ledesma’s attorney, Andrew Haynal, did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.