October 25, 2020

The last words we say as we pledge allegiance to the flag are: “with liberty and justice for all.” Belief in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance are a basic part of learning citizenship as a child. History continues to show us that the legal system does not always apply justice equally—and apparently that is especially true if your mother or father is a judge.

Today’s case in point is the ex-La Jolla Country Day Teacher, Jonathan Sammartino, who recently ONLY received probation for having sexual relations with a minor student. Mr. Sammartino’s crimes had him facing up to one year in local custody and the requirement to register as a sex offender. Interestingly enough, Sammartino had previously faced two additional  felony sex counts that could have had him facing prison time. Those counts were dismissed after he plead guilty to this count in August 2020. His mother just happens to be U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino.

According to The San Diego District Attorney’s office, Jonathan Sammartino plead guilty to violating Penal Code 261.5, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor (statutory rape.) Under this section, the judge has discretion over whether to order a defendant to register as a sex offender, regardless of the age difference. The District Attorney’s office requested that the defendant be required to register per Penal Code 290.006, but the judge exercised his discretion and declined to order the defendant to register. While this section of the Penal Code allows discretion, a judge is also required to state the reasons for his or her findings on the record. In declining to impose sex offender registration in the Sammartino case, Judge Rogers cited a U.S. Supreme Court case that found registration was most suited for those considered dangerous and likely to reoffend. The judge also exercised his sentencing discretion in granting probation.

In the midst of the growth of sex crimes involving our children, how can we continue to allow this degree of sexual immorality with such inequitable sentencing? Anyone else who committed such a grievous crime against an under-aged youth would have at a minimum been required to register as a sex offender. 

Mr. Sammartino does not hold a teaching credential but rather a doctoral degree. If he did hold a credential, he would have had to surrender it and never be allowed to teach again. The defense claims that Mr. Sammartino “pledged he will not seek to teach anywhere … and that means anywhere at any level in any way, including private tutoring, including college instruction or community college.”  Who can believe this? He had already been accused of committing two acts of sexual misconduct prior to this one!

It is not a stretch to conclude that his pattern of behavior clearly demonstrates that he is likely to reoffend. Unfortunately, if he does, because his mother is a judge, he may be allowed to walk away yet again.

There is no mention of him seeking therapy for his sexual disorder and, because he is granted probation, he will never really pay for the crimes he committed against impressionable young people. What or who will stop him from doing this again in another setting where young women are gathered?

Where is the justice for all? 

Do the right thing Mr. Sammartino—register as a sex offender!  At least get some help for your addiction. Don’t ruin another young woman’s life with your dereliction. Anyone who has a conscience would!

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch