News 12 at 11/ Wednesday, April 15, 2015
EVANS, Ga. (WRDW) -- We're learning more about the Evans mother who confessed to her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and ended up in jail.
Rachel Lehnardt is accused of holding a party for minors involving sexual acts, drugs and alcohol.
News 12 breaks down how an organization with "anonymous" in the name ended up making this woman's story famous.
Infamous might be a better word to describe Lehnardt's story after a police report describes a night of naked Twister and hot tubs.
Wednesday night News 12 spoke with mother's attorney who says understanding her background is crucial to knowing how she got here.
It's a case where the lines are blurry and the comments are diverse.
"The police have some options with how they want to handle this," attorney Vic Hawk said.
A police report details how a mother parties with her 16-year-old daughter and her teenage friends. Rounds of naked Twister, sex in a bathroom with an 18 year old boy, and allowing the teens to drink and smoke marijuana in the home are just a few activities described in the report.
"You've got the alcohol, you've got the marijuana, you have the sex with individuals that have reached the age of consent, and it's very murky in that particular area as to what they can be charged with," Hawk said.
As of now, Lehnardt's been charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Neither charge is a felony. Since the boys were at the age of consent, no sexual charges have been filed.
"With the individuals being over the age of 16, some aspects of what was going on was legal," Hawk said.
Some think the AA sponsor is in the wrong. According to their own pamphlet, the sponsor is the "one person to turn to without embarrassment when doubts, questions, or problems linked to alcoholism arise."
Since the sponsor is not licensed, they are not required to report anything unless they have knowledge of a felony.
Lehnardt's attorney Shawn Hammond says the mother, who's a former Mormon Sunday school teacher is going through a divorce. He told News 12 Lehnardt was intoxicated that night but expected the kids to be with their dad and her to be alone.
He describes her situation now as a betrayal by one person.
His full statement reads:
"Mrs. Lehnardt acknowledges that due to recent alcohol abuse she engaged in several acts of inappropriate conduct. Although, many of the allegations are exaggerated, she is extremely remorseful for what she allowed to occur in her presence and is obtaining professional and pastoral counseling to ensure that this conduct is never repeated. Mrs. Lehnardt intends to fully cooperate with the legal system to accept complete responsibility for her conduct and to fully atone for her actions. However, at not time did Mrs. Lehnardt sponsor or facilitate a party for underage minors."
"Mrs. Lehnardt has recommitted herself to her faith and her family. She is hopeful that her children, members of her faith and others will learn from her poor example as to just how easy it is for people to exercise such extremely poor judgment while intoxicated."
"In regards to the connection this case has with Alcoholics Anonymous, Mrs. Lehnardt continues to participate in and strongly believes in the program. She strongly regrets any negative media coverage that this matter may have had on the organization."
Additionally, the following is the relevant background information.
Mrs. Lehnardt has been a life long Mormon and is from Missouri. Her father is a doctor and she has been a devoted member of the Mormon church for most of her life to include being a Sunday school teacher. Until recently, she had never drank, did drugs, drank caffeinated beverages and strictly adhered to the major tenants of the Mormon faith.
She and her husband have five children together and have been married since 2000.
Her husband, James Lehnardt, was a military service member who was discharged for severe PTSD and anger issues after a deployment to Iraq. He is currently receiving 100% VA disability.
Due to his anger and domestic violence issues, the parties separated in November 2014 with the mom keeping custody of the kids. She had not worked during the marriage and found herself with limited resources working at a job just above minimum wage. It was around this time that Mrs. Lehnardt began to break away from the church and started drinking on the weekends when she did not have the kids. Like many people after a long term, devoted marriage, Mrs. Lehnardt was unsteady and turned to alcohol more than was reasonable. It should also be stated that because Mr. Lehnardt's military service the parties stayed in the Augusta / Fort Gordon area after his discharge which prevented her from having any extended family support.
Over the next few months through March 2015, she had stopped going to church and would drink to the point of intoxication on the weekends when her kids were with their dad. However, she did not drink much when the kids were with her and never became drunk in their presence.
On the weekend in question, the kids were with their dad and the 16 year old daughter came over with her friends. Mrs. Lehnardt was already intoxicated when they came over and there was obviously little parental control. Mrs. Lehnardt will not deny that the two of the older boys did smoke their own marijuana that they brought and did drink in her presence but much of the other allegations from the police report are clear exaggerations. She states that she passed out drunk in her bed before midnight leaving the kids unsupervised. Several hours later she woke up while being raped by her daughter's 16 year old (former) boyfriend. She forced him off of her prior to him finishing the act.
The next day, realizing that she had allowed herself to get raped by a 16 year old because of her intoxication and extremely poor judgment the night before, she sought information on local AA programs to attend. A few days later her husband's parents were awarded temporary custody of all five children after they found out from the 16 year old daughter what had happened.
When she started the AA program she was approached by a member named "Heidi" who asked to be her sponsor. In confidence and at Heidi's request, she told her about the divorce, her husband's change from the war, how she had started drinking a few months prior, the events of that night in question and how horrible she felt about everything that had transpired that night.
It was unfortunate that Heidi went straight to the Sheriff's department with the info. The children had already been removed from Mrs. Lehnardt's custody and she had expressed not only her remorse for what happened but also her complete commitment to never drink again.
Currently, Mrs. Lehnardt is obtaining counseling through a private provider, has rejoined her old church, is receiving additional pastoral counseling and is attempting to everything possible to atone for her mistakes.