CAMDEN—Two Triton Regional High School teachers will possibly serve just 30 days under house arrest after entering guilty pleas Monday afternoon in connection with a teacher-student sex scandal that rocked the Runnemede school last fall.
The two men—Jeffrey P. Logandro, 32, and Daniel R. Michielli, 27—also forfeited their ability to teach, or hold any public position, in New Jersey with the guilty pleas they entered before Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Brown Jr.
Sentencing for both men is scheduled for March 15.
Taking the five teachers and administrators charged in the scandal out of New Jersey's public schools has been authorities' goal since the probe, which began last summer, started mounting evidence against them, Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk said.
"I think we've accomplished our purpose—and we have discussed this with the victims and their families—and our purpose is to see that (the educators) do not hold public office in the future, that they are not teachers in our public school system," Faulk said outside the Camden County Hall of Justice. "That, ultimately, was our purpose in the beginning and it continues to be our purpose. We are satisfied with the plea, and I know the victims' families are satisfied with the plea."
The third-degree conspiracy charge to which Logandro and Michielli pleaded guilty is punishable by sentence of up to five years in state prison, but the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, under the plea deals it reached with the two now-former Black Horse Pike Regional School District teachers, will not oppose sentences of house arrest or other diversionary programs under the agreements.
The plea agreements do, however, allow for Brown to impose 30-day jail sentences, though house arrest for both men appears to be a very real possibility at this point.
Former Triton principal Catherine DePaul, 55, also entered a guilty plea on Monday in connection with the teacher-student sex scandal. She was immediately sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to a non-indictable, disorderly persons charge of failure to report to law enforcement allegations of child abuse or neglect.
Like Logandro and Michielli, DePaul also forfeited her ability to hold a public position in New Jersey under the plea agreement.
"This situation is devastating to her," DePaul's attorney, Matthew Portella, told Brown. "She's deeply saddened by what happened. Disappointed and sorry that it occurred, and is certainly sorry for the victims, and hopes that after today everybody who has been touched by this tragedy can continue to heal and move forward."
After Portella ran through a laundry list of DePaul's accomplishments in education, including her selection as Triton's teacher of the year in 1991, Brown condemned her for her lack of action when allegations of teacher-student sex surfaced.
"This is very disturbing. ... There is a bond between a teacher or principal or school staff, that person or persons, and the students," the judge said. "And it's a sacred bond. It is a bond of trust. It is a professional bond. And in many cases there is a personal bond. You have violated that trust and you have violated that bond. I'm sure that up until this point, your career has been stellar. Unfortunately, folks are going to remember this particular episode."
The state pension board will determine whether DePaul is eligible for retirement benefits following Monday's guilty plea, Camden County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Jason Laughlin said.
Both Logandro, of Deptford, and Michielli, of Blackwood, were charged last October with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Michielli was additionally charged with second-degree sexual assault.
The case against a third Triton teacher—Nicholas Martinelli, of Cherry Hill—accused of engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a single female student during the 2011-12 school year remains open, as does the case against administrator Jernee Kollock, 39, of Williamstown.
Those cases appear headed to a grand jury, though Faulk left open the possibility of reaching agreements with the two educators.
"We will go forward with indictments if we cannot reach plea agreements with them," he said.
Unlike Logandro and Michielli, both of whom faced a slew of charges, Martinelli is charged only with second-degree official misconduct, as his victim was 18 years old at the time of the alleged improper sexual relationship.
Logandro's and Michielli's victims were 17 years old, making them minors.
Kollock, who as Triton vice principal allegedly received information about the three teachers' relationships with students on April 23, 2012, is charged with both second-degree official misconduct and the disorderly persons charge of failure to report the alleged crimes to law enforcement.
Logandro, Michielli and DePaul continued to draw paychecks after their suspensions took effect last year. That is no longer the case, according to Faulk.
"It is my understanding that with the guilty pleas they will no longer be paid," the prosecutor said.
Martinelli and Kollock, who was transferred to Timber Creek Regional High School last summer, remain suspended with pay.
After the charges against the five educators were announced on Oct. 4, 2012, authorities pointed to text messaging and social media as forums the teachers used to communicate with the student victims, including during instructional time.
"Our investigation revealed that despite rules and regulations prohibiting it, the improper relationships between the teachers and students were fostered through social media as well as socializing in person outside the school," Faulk said at that time. "Indeed, we uncovered evidence of exchanges of sexually explicit text messages during instructional periods."
On Monday, the prosecutor expressed confidence his office's probe has resulted in charges being filed against all Triton teachers who engaged in inappropriate relationships with students.
"We are satisfied that this is the totality, the universe of the offenses at Triton High School," he told reporters.
For all of Gloucester Township Patch's coverage on the Triton charges, visit Patch's Triton Teacher-Student Sex Scandal page.
For more on the Triton teacher-student sex charges, also see:
- 'Foundation Jeopardized': School District Responds to Guilty Pleas
- BHPRSD Board Moves to Take Suspended Triton Educators' Pay
- Suspended Triton Educators Still Drawing Paychecks?
- School District Hires PR Firm in Wake of Triton Sex Scandal
- District, Superintendent Issue Statements on Triton Sex Scandal
- 'Shocked,' 'Astonished' Triton Students React to Sex Scandal
- [UPDATE] Triton Teachers Under Investigation
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