Lichtenegger delays plea on latest charges; offer made by district attorney’s office

Kessler P. Lichtnegger's booking photo, which sent a chill down the spine of a previous victim's father.
Kessler P. Lichtenegger’s booking photo from this spring.

Kessler Lichtenegger, the former SM East student charged as an adult earlier this year with six counts, including rape or intercourse with no consent, delayed entering a plea Friday morning in Johnson County District Court.

Prosecutors indicated they have offered a plea agreement to Lichtenegger after going through a mediation session. Defense attorney Heath Stuart told the court that he was not ready to agree to the plea offer because his “client has some questions remaining.” He also said Lichtenegger’s parents, who were in the courtroom, had questions about the plea deal.

“This is a serious crime. I want the defendant to know everything he needs to know,” said Judge Charles Droege, who agreed to the delay.

Lichtenegger remains in custody in the Johnson County jail and made his appearance in court in the orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffed. The charges also include aggravated criminal sodomy with a child under 14, two counts of electronic solicitation with a child under 14 and two counts of exploitation.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Covington said Friday that the victims’ family have been informed of the terms of the plea offer. He said that the latest offer was made after the mediation with the defense and a judge who is not sitting on the case. Terms of the offer are likely to be revealed at another plea hearing set for Sept. 16.

Lichtenegger was a senior at SM East in 2015 up until the time of the charges in adult court and his subsequent arrest this spring.

An affidavit released in April suggests the most recent charges were set in motion when an 11-year-old Johnson County girl’s father saw her exchanging Facebook messages with Lichtenegger in August of 2014. Lichtenegger was charged as an adult in late March, the same month he turned 18.

A motion asking that Lichtenegger be charged in adult court with a registration violation stated that Lichtenegger was adjudicated as a juvenile on two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior and one count of battery in April 2012.