Mothers statement in Triton sex case casts wide blame
By the time the two former Triton Regional High School teachers gathered with their attorneys in a Camden courtroom for sentencing Friday, the conclusion was pretty much foregone.
The two men, both young and in suits and ties, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit official misconduct in connection with improper sexual conduct with students.
The sentences Jeff Logandro, 32, and Daniel Michielli, 27, both of Blackwood, would receive had been negotiated - three years' probation, 30 days of house arrest, minor fines, and the revocation of their teaching licenses and of contact with the students.
And the news was widely known: five educators charged in a sex scandal that rocked the Runnemede high school and its 1,500 students last year.
What turned Friday's hearing from something purely procedural was a statement written by the mother of the teen involved with Logandro, a popular mathematics teacher.
In that statement, the mother spoke of how her daughter had been betrayed - by Logandro, the school's administration, and the community.
"Most interesting to me," she wrote in the letter read by Assistant Prosecutor Mark Chase, "is that a lot of the community blames the girls and their families.
"My further disappointment and further impact comes from the community . . . which place blame on the girls and not their offenders," Chase read. "I thank the parents and students who have seen through the gossip and who have supported the girls. . . . Unfortunately there are too few of you."
The mother's statement spoke of her daughter's "loss of camaraderie among her classmates, the idea of being so alone. . . . The humiliation by so many people and the hurtful things that are said when all the facts are not truly known."
One of the teens came to court with her family; the other did not. She was too traumatized, Chase told the judge. The families declined to comment beyond the statement.
The statement said, "Jeff, Dan . . . you were people I knew and loved, people I trusted. . . . I feel so betrayed now."
Neither Michielli or Logandro spoke in court Friday.
As Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown Jr. sentenced the two former teachers, he described the family's statement as eloquent.
Alluding to the teachers' work as coaches and mentors, the judge said, "It's unfortunate that all of the good that you've done, sadly enough, this is going to be the thing that is remembered."
Michielli, Logandro and teacher Nick Martinelli, 28, of Cherry Hill, who pleaded guilty Thursday to a fourth-degree charge of hindering apprehension, were friends.
Martinelli was a gym teacher. Logandro and Michielli taught math. Logandro and Martinelli coached. Michielli was the senior class adviser.
The school's then-principal, Catharine DePaul, 55, of Woodbury, failed to act when she learned that teachers were having sexual contact with students. She pleaded guilty to failing to report a crime. A fifth educator, former vice principal Jernee Kollock, 39, of Williamstown, faces a charge of official misconduct.
By pleading guilty, the teachers avoided possible convictions for more serious crimes and jail. The families avoided the possibility of a painful and traumatic trial.
"The relationship between a student and a teacher is a sacred relationship," Brown told them. "It's a violation of a sacred trust, which is just sad."