A Tehachapi man who ran unsuccessfully for school board in the last two elections was arraigned last week on five felony complaints alleging sexual acts with a minors.
Steven Christopher Vogel, 26, of Tehachapi went before Judge John Oglesby in Kern County Superior Court, Mojave Division, on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 14.
As described by the judge, the five counts allege that between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 Vogel engaged in sex acts with minor males and also engaged in such an act between Dec. 1 and Feb. 1, as well as unlawfully contacting or communicating with a minor with the intent to commit child molestation.
Between the same dates, the charges alleged, that "while motivated by unnatural abnormal sexual interest in children," Vogel arranged and went to a meeting with two minors for the purpose of committing a sexual offense.
The judge said the charges were serious felonies for which, if convicted, Vogel would be sentenced to state prison.
Public Defender Andrew Blanco was appointed to represent Vogel and entered a not guilty plea for him on all counts.
A preliminary hearing was set for March 1 at 9 a.m. A pre-preliminary hearing was set for the Feb. 26 at 1:30 p.m. Bail was kept at $200,000.
The judge also issued a protective order for Vogel not to have any contact with the alleged victims in any fashion and if he should make bail he is not to make any attempt to locate them and must stay 100 yards away from them. If he possess or own any firearms he must surrender them or divest them of his possession with in 24 hours.
Mother speaks out
Following the hearing Vogel's mother, Bonnie MacKenzie of Tehachapi, said that 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."
She also asked that people not judge her family and said that she has already received hate calls.
"I didn't do anything," she said. "Steven needs to be held accountable for his actions, but don't take it out on me."
MacKenzie said that 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."
School board candidate
Vogel ran for a seat 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 told the Tehachapi News he had not been active in the organization 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 open for public view through Thursday evening, but not thereafter, 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."