Crime

Former Nipomo High girls wrestling coach should face molestation charges, Sheriff's Office says

Former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno talks to his team at the end of a practice in January 2017.
Former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno talks to his team at the end of a practice in January 2017. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office has recommended multiple charges be filed against former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno this week after a four-month investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior with female team members.

The SLO County assistant district attorney Eric Dobroth said that his office received the report Tuesday recommending that Magdaleno be charged with lewd acts with a minor under 14 years old and annoying or molesting a child under 18.

Dobroth said Thursday his office would be reviewing the case over the coming weeks. Dobroth declined to comment further.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla declined to comment further "because of the nature of the crimes and the fact that minors are involved," he wrote in an email.

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According to two parents with daughters on the team who spoke to The Tribune under the condition of anonymity, at least 10 female Nipomo High School students accused Magdaleno of inappropriate touching and sexually charged comments. Magdaleno’s alleged conduct took place in 2016 and 2017, according to the parents.

Magdaleno has not been charged with a crime as of Thursday. Once the District Attorney’s Office reviews the case, it will decide whether to move forward with formally charging Magdaleno.

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Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach Justin Magdeleno during a match last season. Facebook

Lucia Mar School District spokesperson Charles Fiorentino said in an email to The Tribune in January that Magdaleno remains on paid leave as the district’s investigation continues. It's unclear if Magdaleno is still employed by the school district as of Thursday as Fiorentino could not immediately be reached for comment.

Magdaleno resigned as wrestling coach late last year.

According to TransparentCalifornia.com, a public database, Magdaleno’s total pay for the 2016 school year was $80,578 with an added $18,627 in benefits. According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Magdaleno’s teaching credential was still valid as of Thursday afternoon.

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Magdaleno, a Righetti High School and Cal Poly graduate, has been a teacher at Nipomo High for six years, according to his biography on the school’s website. In 2013, Magdaleno founded the girls wrestling team at Nipomo High School, the first such team in San Luis Obispo County, after coaching the girls wrestling team at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria.

Magdaleno, who taught psychology and government at Nipomo, did not respond to a request for comment.

Since the allegations occurred and Magdaleno was placed on leave, participation numbers for the once successful girls wrestling program have dwindled.

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