Local News

Thursday, Feb 14 2013 07:28 PM

Tehachapi man pleads not guilty to sex with minors

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    By ED GORDON / TEHACHAPI NEWS

    Steven Vogel confers with Court appointed Attorney Andrew Blanco after hearing the charges against him on Thursday.

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BY ED GORDON Tehachapi News

MOJAVE -- A Tehachapi man who twice ran unsuccessfully for school board and helped start an anti-bullying group after the Seth Walsh suicide was arraigned on five felony complaints related to multiple charges of sexual acts with minors.

Steven Christopher Vogel, 26, went before Judge John Oglesby in Kern County Superior Court, Mojave Division, Thursday afternoon on multiple charges of sexual acts with a minor. Vogel pleaded not guilty.

The five counts allege that between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 Vogel engaged in sex acts with minor males, the judge said.

On Dec. 31, he engaged in such an act, the allegations say, and, they added, between Dec. 1 and Feb. 1 he unlawfully contacted a minor with the intent to commit child molestation.

It's alleged that between the same dates, "while motivated by unnatural abnormal sexual interest in children," arranged and went to a meeting with two minors for the purpose of committing a sexual offense.

Public Defender Andrew Blanco was appointed to represent Vogel and entered a not guilty plea for him on all counts.

Vogel will next be in court March 1. Bail was set at $200,000.

The judge also ordered Vogel not to have any contact with the alleged victims. If he makes bail, he is not to try to find them and must stay 100 yards away from them. If he possesses or owns any firearms, he must surrender them or divest them of his possession within 24 hours.

Following the hearing, Vogel's mother, Bonnie MacKenzie of Tehachapi, said her son turned himself in when he learned of the charges.

"He didn't run from the law," she said. "I drove him to the sheriff's department. They didn't come and grab him."

MacKenzie said her son connected with men through the website Jaxed, not Facebook.

"A 15-year-old should not be on a website like Jaxed," she said. "Fifteen and 16-year-olds can make that decision, they're not 10, they're not children. They know they're on a website like 18-year-olds."

If Vogel is able to make bail, it won't be with her help, she noted.

"Steven's not getting out, I can't make bail," she said. "I have a grandson. If Steven did get out he can't go home. I still love my son, all of us love my son and I will be here for every hearing.

"What Steven did is absolutely horrendous, if he did it," she said. "Right now it's just alleged. To me he's not a monster. If he did what he did, he deserves to be punished."

Vogel ran for seats on the Board of Trustees of Tehachapi Unified School District in November 2010 and November 2012. In the most recent election he went up against incumbent Leonard Evansic, garnering 3,893 votes, nearly 45 percent of those cast, despite not running an active campaign.

In the aftermath of the suicide of Tehachapi teenager Seth Walsh in September 2010, Vogel was among the founders of the Anti-Bullying Coalition, although other members have said he had not been active in ABC for at least a year.

Professionally, Vogel has tried a number of occupations including real estate sales. In January, according to his Facebook page that was up through Thursday evening, he began selling cars at an automobile dealership in the Antelope Valley.

Posts on his Facebook page since November 2012 included comments about his sexuality including one on Dec. 22 that he "officially came out to the world as a gay man, choosing not to withhold secrets any longer. It hurts more to hid then (sic) it does to live open."

-- Claudia Elliott of the Tehachapi News contributed to this report.

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