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Ex-La Jolla Country Day teacher pleads guilty to sex with 17-year-old student

Court gavel
(File)

Jonathan Sammartino admitted to having unlawful sex with a minor.

A former La Jolla Country Day School teacher pleaded guilty to a felony charge involving a sexual relationship with a student who was 17 at the time.

Jonathan Sammartino, 36, admitted Aug. 27 to having unlawful sex with a minor.

According to court documents, he engaged in sexual acts with the victim at his home and in his car between April and September 2016 — a period that covered the end of her senior year and the months after her graduation. Sammartino was 33 at the time.

Sammartino, son of U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino, is expected to be sentenced Oct. 21, when he could get probation and up to one year in custody, according to a plea agreement. In light of the plea, two other charges against him were dismissed.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers said he was not inclined to require Sammartino to register as a sex offender for life, but may still do so at sentencing.

The judge said Sammartino will be required to pay a civil penalty of up to $10,000 and a restitution fine of up to $10,000, plus any restitution for which the victim qualifies.

According to an arrest warrant, the victim told a friend about the sexual encounters in 2016. In July 2018, she filed a police report from Northern California, where she attended college.

Sammartino was arrested in September 2018 in San Jose, where he had just started a job teaching Advanced Placement psychology at The Harker School, a college prep school.

The victim testified in court during a pretrial hearing in January. In a recorded phone call played in court, Sammartino admitted his conduct.

“Why did you do it?,” the victim asked in the recording. “You knew I was 17. You knew I was your student. You knew it was my first time and I lost my virginity to you.”

“I don’t have a good answer because I wasn’t thinking through what I was doing,” Sammartino replied, apologizing several times during the call. “I can’t believe that I did that.”

Following the Aug. 27 hearing, Sammartino’s attorney, Eugene Iredale, said his client had an impeccable teaching record and blamed the relationship in part on a bicycle accident that left Sammartino with a brain injury that affected his ability to regulate his emotions and make reasonable judgment — the subject of previous hearings in the case.

“It’s something he regrets deeply and will always regret,” Iredale said. “He’s deeply sorry for what happened.”

The attorney said Sammartino has started neurological and psychiatric treatment. Iredale said a motion to defer prosecution on grounds of a mental health disorder was denied because of changes in state law that made the charges in the case ineligible for deferred prosecution.

According to Sammartino’s LinkedIn profile, he taught at La Jolla Country Day between 2012 and 2016, then taught at the French American International School in San Francisco before landing at The Harker School. ◆