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Education

Foreign exchange student Marta San Jose, ‘brainwashed’ by US host into helping molest her underage sister, won’t be charged

Bizarre saga ends for Spanish student, who secretly married abusive host Dale Leary and then helped lure her underage sister to Florida where she was molested

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 2:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 2:25pm

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped the case against a Spanish foreign-exchange student they believe helped her former host in Florida sexually abuse her own underage sister.

The decision, nearly one year after Miami-Dade police arrested Marta San Jose and student sponsor Dale Leary on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, was made because the younger sister declined to return to the United States to testify against her sibling.

The girls’ mother felt her younger daughter “had already suffered enough” and she didn’t want to see her “subjected to the criminal justice system,” according to a final memo by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

The mother also “believed that while Marta’s behaviour towards her sister was grossly inappropriate, she expressed strong feelings that in her opinion, these crimes only happened because Dale manipulated Marta into committing them,” prosecutor Jessie Friedman wrote in the memo.

Her defence lawyer had long insisted that Leary “brainwashed her and manipulated her.”

The conclusion of the criminal case caps a bizarre saga that made headlines from Miami to Europe, shattered the San Jose family and renewed scrutiny on the oversight of student-exchange programmes that match students with American families.

Prosecutors cannot go after Leary himself – he killed himself days after being bailed out of jail last summer. San Jose was placed in the Leary household by Chicago-based CCI Greenheart, despite his felony conviction for sexually attacking a woman during a home-invasion robbery in 1985.

Detectives found journals from at least two earlier exchange students that suggested, but didn’t offer definitive proof, that Leary also engaged in sexual misconduct with them. Police, however, could not find the students who lived overseas.

The story started in 2013 when San Jose was placed in the Leary home, where Dale Leary lived with his wife, Claudia Leary. After San Jose’s junior year at Palmetto High, the couple flew to Spain with her and convinced her family to allow her finish high school in South Florida. The Learys offered to pay for her flight and the cost her stay.

Little did her family know, Leary divorced Claudia and married San Jose, to allow her to remain in the country without her parent’s permission. Claudia Leary, however, remained in the house and “acted as if she was his wife,” the State Attorney’s report said.

The Learys convinced the San Jose family to allow San Jose’s younger singer to visit. It was here that San Jose and Leary convinced her younger sister, identified as R.S., that her Spanish parents had been abusing her, even though she did not recall it.

“Marta stated that Dale could prove she had been sexually assaulted by examining her vagina,” according to the memo. The girl eventually allowed the sex act, and “began to believe Marta’s story,” the memo said.

That eventually led to Leary and San Jose performing more sex acts on the underage girl, and even convincing her to take lewd photos.

The story grew even more bizarre when Leary helped R.S. craft an affidavit claiming that her parents had sexually abused her. Upon landing in Spain, the report said, she handed it to a police officer. Spanish authorities soon arrested the San Jose parents for sexual abuse.

The charges were eventually dropped – after R.S. revealed Leary’s coaching to a therapist. Miami-Dade police soon launched an investigation and arrested Leary and San Jose.

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 prosecutors could not prove she played any role in sexual misconduct with foreign-exchange students.

San Jose has been free from jail since August, getting therapy and trying to rebuild her relationship with her mother.