For many Jewish families in the Kansas City area, Joel White was the go-to disc jockey and photographer when planning bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah parties for their adolescent sons and daughters.
By TONY RIZZO
The Kansas City Star
His services were in such demand that Jody Hanson of Olathe said she booked him a full year in advance to work at her son’s planned bar mitzvah in August.
But now Hanson and others are scrambling to make new arrangements after White was charged in federal court this week with taking hidden-camera videos of nude preteen girls who were members of a soccer team he coached.
“It’s just awful,” said Hanson. “My concern is how over the years he had access to so many kids of that age group.”
Though the allegations in the federal case involve videos allegedly taken inside White’s Lee’s Summit house and are not connected to his Adida DJ Entertainment & Photography business, Lee’s Summit police said they continued to investigate “all aspects of the case.”
Hundreds of photographs taken at parties, school dances and other youth-related events are displayed on the Adida Facebook page.
And at a federal court hearing for White on Thursday in Kansas City, Lee’s Summit Detective Chad Albin testified that the majority of the 800 party pictures he reviewed on the page were of young teenage girls.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore argued that White should be held without bond because his business allowed him to have direct contact with minors of the same age as the children he allegedly victimized.
“He is a danger to minors in the community,” she argued.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Travis Poindexter asked that a bond be set and said that there were no allegations against White concerning his business.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Larsen denied the bond request and ordered White detained while the case is pending.
Those who worked with White or hired him for events say they never saw any evidence that he was doing anything inappropriate.
Area photographer Don Martin said he had worked at several events where White also worked and thought he always conducted himself professionally.
“I was shocked when I heard,” he said.
Paige Gerson of Leawood said White had worked her son’s bar mitzvah five years ago, and she hired him again for her daughter’s bat mitzvah two weeks ago.
“He was a nice guy and a great disc jockey,” she said. “It’s shocking.”
White was so highly regarded as a disc jockey that some people scheduled their events around when he was available, Gerson said.
He had a knack for getting kids out on the dance floor, and they always seemed to have a good time when he worked, Hanson said.
“He was the one everybody used,” she said.
But the new charge is not the first time White, 40, has been accused of taking inappropriate pictures.
In 2007 he was charged with eavesdropping for allegedly snapping a picture of a nude teenager in an Olathe tanning salon. After they heard the victim screaming, salon employees chased a suspect to a car outside and wrote down the license plate number. When police later talked to White, they could not find the picture he allegedly took. The case ended with his guilty plea and probation on a charge of criminal trespass, according to Johnson County District Court records.
In the new case, White is charged with using minors to produce child pornography. The investigation began last month in Colorado after White was arrested in a case involving the theft of soccer memorabilia, according to federal prosecutors.
While investigating the theft, a detective from Commerce City, Colo., discovered nude images on White’s camera. The information was forwarded to detectives in Lee’s Summit.
According to court documents filed in the case, White admitted to detectives that he secretly taped girls on 10 to 15 occasions while they were changing clothes in a bedroom at his house. Moore said in court Thursday that four victims have been identified.
Hanson said she didn’t expect to get back the $100 deposit she paid White for the August event. And Gerson said she had not received the pictures and video White took at her recent event. She said she knows others who now are trying to make new arrangements for upcoming parties.
“My cousin was supposed to use him this Saturday,” she said.
To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.