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Former La Jolla Country Day teacher gets probation for sex with student

Gavel
(File)

Sentence by San Diego judge also bars Jonathan Sammartino from teaching for three years.

A former La Jolla Country Day School teacher was placed on three years’ probation Oct. 21 after he admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old girl who had been his student.

Jonathan Sammartino, 37, pleaded guilty in August to a felony charge of having unlawful sex with a minor. In addition to formal probation, he must perform 400 hours of community service.

He was ordered not to work as a teacher during his probation, but attorneys on both sides acknowledged he will never find employment in the field again, given his particular offense.

Sammartino, son of U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino, apologized during the court hearing.

“I am very sorry for everything that has happened and for the misery caused by my unfortunate involvement with [the victim],” he said. “I know that my behavior has disrupted her life, my own life and the community.”

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers listed several reasons for his sentencing decision, including apologies from the defendant before he knew of the police investigation.

“I find that Mr. Sammartino’s remorse is genuine and sincere and not motivated by the fact of the criminal prosecution,” Rogers said.

The judge opted not to require Sammartino to register as a sex offender.

County Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said the victim wanted to see the case resolved without going to trial and wanted to “move on.”

Rogers commended the victim for coming forward, saying it was “absolutely the right thing to do.” He said any blame she may have put on herself is “misplaced.”

“To put it bluntly, this was his doing,” Rogers said of Sammartino.

Defense attorney Eugene Iredale said his client has suffered “very real punishment” from “collateral consequences” — the loss of his career and marriage and embarrassment in the community.

Iredale also has argued that his client had a serious bicycle accident in 2015 that left him with a brain injury that affected his ability to regulate his emotions and judgment.

The judge said he reviewed reports and heard “hours of testimony” about Sammartino’s crash and was “satisfied that he suffered very real impairment and judgment and impulse control as a result of that bicycling accident.”

According to court documents, Sammartino 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. It started when Sammartino was 33 and married. The victim was 17.

According to an arrest warrant, the victim disclosed the sexual encounters to a friend in 2016. In July 2018, while a college student in Northern California, she filed a police report.

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