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Nipomo wrestling coach won’t face molestation charges. Now Gloria Allred is involved

Former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno during a practice.
Former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno during a practice. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A girls wrestling coach at Nipomo High School sexually abused a student athlete over the course of two years and school district officials did nothing to prevent it, a lawsuit filed by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred on Thursday alleges.

The lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on behalf of a teenage student names the Lucia Mar Unified School District, Nipomo High School and Nipomo High School coach Justin Magdelano as defendants. It alleges negligent supervision and training, sexual harassment, sexual battery, battery and assault.

Lawsuits represent just one side of the story, and Lucia Mar has not yet filed a response in court. A district spokesperson said it has not yet been served with the lawsuit and cannot comment. Magdelano could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Magdelano was suspended from the school district in October 2017 following allegations from students of inappropriate touching. Several parents spoke to The Tribune under condition of anonymity and said about 10 Nipomo High School girls wrestling team members came forward with accusations of inappropriate touching and comments by Magdaleno.

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An investigation by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office concluded that prosecutors should file multiple charges of lewd acts with a minor under 14 years old and annoying or molesting a child under 18.

But Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth said Thursday that the DA’s Office also conducted their own review of the case and declined to file charges. Dobroth said his office found there was insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is unclear if Magdaleno is still employed by the school district.

In the lawsuit, Allred alleges that her client — identified only as Jane Doe, who is between 14 and 15 years old — was a member of the co-ed wrestling team at Mesa Elementary School when she was abused by Magdelano.

When the girl was in the seventh grade during the 2015-2016 school year, Magdelano showed up at her wrestling practice on several occasions to “scout the talent,” or assess female wrestlers who would soon be attending Nipomo High School, according to the complaint.

Magdelano invited Jane Doe (as well as other Mesa Elementary students) to attend the high school’s 2016 Summer Wrestling Camp, which he operated and supervised, toward the end of the school year. It was during those practices that Magdelano sexually assaulted several of the girls, the lawsuit says.

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The lawsuit alleges that training at the camp took place in a small, enclosed room at Nipomo High School. No adults other than Magdelano were present with the minors, the complaint states. In addition, Magdelano would obscure the room’s windows so that passersby outside could not see in, it reads.

“Under the guise of demonstrating wrestling moves, Magdelano forcefully grabbed plaintiff’s breasts, buttocks, and used multiple fingers to touch her vaginal area and digitally penetrate her vagina on a near daily basis,” the lawsuit reads. “He also stared at her on a near daily basis in a leering manner.”

The lawsuit states that Jane Doe also personally witnessed Magdelano commit the same assaults on three other students. The complaint also alleges that on multiple occasions Magdelano pushed his erect penis against Jane Doe’s body through her clothing.

When Jane Doe told a Nipomo High School girls wrestling team member about the abuse, the student allegedly told her, “You just get used to it.”

Discouraged, Jane Doe didn’t report the alleged abuse to officials.

When Jane Doe began attending Nipomo High School in the 2016-2017 school year, she joined the girls wrestling team and again participated in the summer wrestling camp. Again, the lawsuit says, Magdelano continually abused her physically, and told her she needed to gain weight to attain the “perfect body.”

The lawsuit says Jane Doe then abruptly quit the wrestling program.

Jane Doe then was harassed by several students at Nipomo High School, one of which told others that she was one of Magdelano’s victims and that she “enjoyed being touched,” after news reports of the allegations against Magdelano were published, the suit reads.

A teacher and a counselor at the school were told about the alleged abuse from other students, but no action was taken, the lawsuit says.

“As a result of (the school district and high school’s) deliberate indifference, plaintiff continued to be harassed and bullied about being a victim of sexual molestation and abuse in early 2018,” the lawsuit reads.

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Jane Doe is seeking an unspecified amount of general and punitive damages against the defendants, as well as recovery of legal fees.

A case management conference has been scheduled for December.

Lucia Mar School District is facing other allegations of wrongdoing involving alleged sexual misconduct by staff. In April, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a female student who was allegedly abused by school bus driver David Lamb, who is currently facing criminal charges.

The lawsuit brought by the 9-year-old girl’s guardians alleges the district and the county Office of Education did not not properly investigate the family’s complaints against Lamb and allowed him to keep driving the same route and continue sexually assaulting the young girl.

Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1

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