Jonathan Sammartino, a 36-year-old former instructor at La Jolla Country Day School, admitted Thursday to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor after the girl told police they engaged in sex acts in his car and home several times over a five-month span in 2016, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by NBC San Diego.
Sammartino, who is the son of US Southern District of California Judge Janis L. Sammartino, waited outside the girl’s home to pick her up prior to their illicit meetings, the station reports.
Sammartino was later arrested in 2018 in San Jose, where he recently started a job teaching an Advanced Placement psychology course at The Harker School, a prestigious college prep school, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Sammartino admitted to having sex with the girl in a recorded phone call that was played in court during a pretrial hearing in January, according to the newspaper.
“Why did you do it?” she asked. “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.”
Sammartino apologized multiple times on the recording, the newspaper reports.
“I don’t have a good answer, because I wasn’t thinking through what I was doing,” he replied. “I can’t believe that I did that.”
The teen told a friend about the sexual encounters in 2016, according to an arrest warrant. She later filed a report in August 2018 with campus police at the University of California-Berkeley, where she attended, NBC San Diego reports.
An attorney for Sammartino, meanwhile, cited a 2015 bicycle accident that left him with a brain injury as a factor in the relationship, claiming it impacted his ability to make reasonable judgments, which was the subject of hearings in the case, the Union-Tribune reports.
“It’s something he regrets deeply and will always regret,” attorney Eugene Iredale told the newspaper. “He’s deeply sorry for what happened.”
Sammartino has begun neurological and psychiatric treatment, Iredale told the newspaper.
Iredale told a judge during Sammartino’s preliminary hearing that he was hospitalized following the accident in La Jolla after hitting a pothole, causing him to relearn basic functions before returning to the classroom, KFMB reports.
Sammartino faces up to one year in jail when he’s sentenced in October.
He could also be barred from teaching ever again and be ordered to register as a sex offender for life, although San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers said he’s “not inclined” to mandate the latter penalty but may do so during the Oct. 21 hearing, KFMB reports.
Sammartino worked at The Harker School until March 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile.
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