Waikato man 'groomed' teen for sex
A Waikato man who met a 14-year-old girl at a Christian music festival then began "grooming" her for sex told her he suffered depression and needed her in his life.
And Bryan Paul Leathart's consensual relationship with the teen continued until she met a new boyfriend a couple of years later.
Leathart, now 25, was today convicted on two charges of sexual connection with a young person and doing an indecent act on a young person and indecent assault between January 2007 and 2009.
Leathart, who was 19 at the time, first met the victim at the Parachute Music Festival at Hamilton's Mystery Creek.
The pair started sending each other texts. Initially they were innocent. However, they progressed to be of a sexual nature.
The victim would say she was in bed and Leathart would text back, asking what she was wearing. She replied just pyjamas, and Leathart replied, "Oh, I bet you look great."
They escalated further and talked of masturbation with Leathart describing her performing oral sex on him.
Leathart sent appreciative texts - telling the girl that she was beautiful and that he wanted her in her life. The victim said she was flattered by the attention of an older man and that it made her feel special.
The texts eventually grew into pxts - or picture messages - after Leathart texted saying he "needed some enjoyment" and "wanted to be reminded of how beautiful her body was" with naked pictures shared between them of parts of their bodies.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Steve Bell said in the Hamilton District Court that Leathart's behaviour was "grooming". Leathart had slowly gained control over the victim by complimenting her looks and playing on her vulnerability.
As part of that grooming the behaviour escalated, he said.
The pair started phoning each other late at night, when the victim's parents had gone to bed.
After a while, the victim started feeling guilty, especially after attending church as her behaviour clashed with the "Christian faith" and she was known as a "good girl".
However, Bell said Leathart responded by saying it would be OK and he had depression and "needed her in his life".
The phone calls eventually turned into sex - with the pair meeting on two occasions and having sex in the back of his car.
The victim eventually met someone else and told Leathart it was over.
When questioned by police Leathart admitting having sex with the victim, but had claimed he didn't realise 16 was the legal age of consent.
Police withdrew a charge of rape after Leathart pleaded guilty to the remaining charges.
Leathart's lawyer, James Gurnick, successfully applied for bail for his client as the offending was nearly seven years ago and he hadn't offended since.
Leathart will be sentenced in November.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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