Ex-La Jolla teacher denied mental health diversion for sex charges

SAN DIEGO — A former La Jolla Country Day School teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his 17-year-old female students was denied the option to complete a mental health diversion program in lieu of going to trial on charges of statutory rape, oral copulation of a minor and digital penetration of a minor Monday.

Jonathan Sammartino, 35, is accused of engaging in a romantic/sexual relationship with “Jane Doe” between April and September 2016, in her senior year and after graduation. Sammartino and Jane Doe met on multiple occasions to engage in consensual sex acts, according to an arrest warrant affadavit.

After the alleged victim lost her virginity to Sammartino — the son of U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino — she disclosed the relationship to a friend, according to the arrest warrant.

In July of last year, Jane Doe filed a crime report with the UC Berkeley Police Department, where she attends college, and identified Sammartino as the alleged perpetrator, according to the affidavit. In a pretext phone call, Sammartino admitted the past romantic/sexual relationship with the alleged victim, the affidavit states.

Sammartino’s defense attorney, Gene Iredale, argued that a 2015 bicycling accident, in which Sammartino hit a pothole while riding in La Jolla and landed on his head, caused a brain injury that severely affected his client’s ability to regulate his emotions and make reasonable judgments, otherwise known as social disinhibition.

Under newly enacted AB 1810, Iredale sought to have Sammartino undergo a diversion program, after which point the charges could possibly be dismissed and the arrest expunged from the defendant’s record if he successfully completed the program.

The law — signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown last June — provides for a two-year diversion program if it can be proved the defendant is suffering from a mental disorder that “played a significant role in the commission of the charged offense.”

However, a subsequent law, SB 215, amended AB 1810 by precluding certain offenses from qualifying for diversion, particularly ones classified as “violent felonies,” such as murder and rape.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles G. Rogers ruled Monday that he did not believe he had the authority to grant diversion because two of the charged counts, oral copulation and digital penetration of a minor, are classified as violent felonies.

The charges were filed in September, as Sammartino completed his first week teaching AP Psychology at the Harker School in San Jose. He is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of his criminal case, according to Iredale, who said his client has an “impeccable reputation” and is well-liked by his students.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Sammartino taught at La Jolla Country Day from 2012 to 2016 and then taught at the French American International School in San Francisco before moving on to the Harker School.

Sammartino, who faces four years and four months in prison if convicted, remains free and is due back in court June 13 for a preliminary hearing.

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