San Jose

Former La Jolla Teacher Gets Probation For Having Sex With Student

The relationship was described as sexual and romantic, lasting from April until September 2016

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A former La Jolla Country Day High School teacher who had a relationship with a 17-year-old student in 2016 was sentenced to one day in jail on Tuesday but will be released after receiving credit for time served.

Sammartino, a former teacher at La Jolla Country Day School, will also serve three years probation, must complete 400 hours of volunteer work and repay other fines and fees after pleaded guilty to a single charge of committing sexual acts with a minor, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Charles G. Rogers ruled Tuesday.

He could have faced up to one year in prison and registration as a sex offender.

Judge Rogers said a "remarkable difference that this case presents" is Sammartino's acknowledgement of his wrongdoings.

"He always admitted it, and he did so before he knew of any criminal investigation for prosecution," the judge said. "In other words, his admission and his remorse, I find, are sincere and they were not motivated by a desire to gain faith of the court to get a lower sentencing."

In declining to impose sex offender registration, Rogers cited a U.S. Supreme Court case that found registration was most suited for those considered dangerous and likely to re-offend.

Rogers also cited a bicycling accident Sammartino suffered about a year prior to the offenses, which the defendant and his attorney say caused a brain injury that inhibited his impulse control and ability to make reasonable judgments. The judge said he didn't think the injury excused Sammartino, but said he believed it was a contributing factor to the offenses.

At the sentencing, Sammartino's lawyer expressed his client's remorse and asked the judge to consider how many times he has apologized to the victim both before and during the trial.

"I am very sorry for everything that has happened and for the misery caused by my unfortunate involvement with Miss Doe," Sammartino said. "I know that my behavior has disrupted her life, my life and the community."

Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said they took into a consideration the toll the conviction would take on Sammartino's life and asked the judge -- at the victim's desire -- to submit whatever sentence he believed was fair so the victim could "get on with her life."

The court can require Sammartino to register as a sex offender at any time during his probation, prosecutors said, but because of the nature of the charge, he could only be registered as a sex offender for 10 years and it would not show up on the Meghan's Law website.

Sammartino lawyer said he would not seek to teach again in any capacity.

All other charges against Jonathan Sammartino were dropped as a result of his guilty plea in San Diego County Superior Court in August.

Sammartino was a teacher at La Jolla Country Day School when he reportedly began a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student, according to the San Diego Police Department’s arrest warrant affidavit.

Jonathan Sammartino taught at La Jolla Country Day and is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student at the school. NBC 7's Artie Ojeda has the details.

The relationship, described as romantic in nature, occurred both while the student was in school, enrolled as a senior, and after her graduation, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said Sammartino and the student met at his home and in his car multiple times over the five-month period to engage in sex acts. Sammartino would wait outside the student's home as she sneaked out to meet him. 

Sammartino, the son of U.S. Southern District of California Judge Janis L. Sammartino, was 33 at the time.

A little more than a year after the alleged relationship ended, Sammartino left La Jolla Country Day and began teaching at The Harker School in San Jose.

The student -- who was by then attending University of California, Berkeley -- filed a criminal report against Sammartino with campus police on August 22, 2018.

Shortly after, Sammartino was arrested in San Jose.

 In a recorded phone call played during the preliminary hearing, Sammartino admitted to the past encounters with the victim.

"Why did you do it? You knew I was 17," Doe says on the recording.

"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," he replied, apologizing to her several times throughout the call. "I can't believe that I did that."

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