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C’bad man pleads guilty to playground sex acts with minor

CARLSBAD — A 24-year-old man accused of a sexual assault on an underage teenage girl on the grounds of a local elementary school accepted a plea agreement Sept. 28 that will keep him out of prison.
In accordance to his plea agreement, Leo Burns Welnick will receive 365 days in county jail relating to a June 25 incident at Magnolia Elementary School with a then-15-year-old Carlsbad girl who prosecutors said was forced to give Welnick oral sex.
Welnick, of Carlsbad, pleaded guilty to one felony count each of oral copulation by a person over 21 on someone under the age of 16 and false imprisonment.
His sentencing date is scheduled for Oct. 28. A decision will be made at that time as to whether Welnick will be ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Deputy District Attorney Elisabeth Silva said in a phone interview that she would be arguing for lifetime sexual offender registration.
Two felony charges — forcible oral copulation and kidnapping — were dismissed in lieu of his plea deal, Silva said. Welnick had faced more than 10 years in prison if convicted of all charges, the prosecutor said.
The case was set to go to trial on the day Welnick pleaded guilty.
Silva said there were a number of different considerations that went into the deal, which included protecting the victim from having to testify at trial.
“The victim in that case is pretty young and vulnerable, and I didn’t want to have to put her through it,” Silva said.
At a July 23 preliminary hearing, the victim testified she and her female teenage friend, also a minor, were having a conversation on the school’s grounds about performing oral sex, when they noticed Welnick approaching with his dog.
Eventually, the victim’s friend left to take a phone call at which time the victim said Welnick and her were alone. Soon after, the victim testified Welnick took her to a more secluded section of the school grounds and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Welnick’s attorney, Brad Patton, couldn’t be reached to comment on the plea agreement.
At the preliminary hearing, Patton, in his successful argument for a bail reduction, told the judge his client has strong family ties to the area, no prior criminal record and suffers from bipolar disorder.
Welnick remains in custody.