Crime

Former Nipomo wrestling coach accused of sex crimes was paid $63,000 while on leave

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

A former Nipomo High School girls wrestling coach who resigned after being investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of a student was paid about $63,000 while on leave for about nine months, in addition to a roughly $32,000 severance package.

Former coach Justin Magdaleno’s separation agreement also shows that the Lucia Mar Unified School District agreed to not disclose any information about him to his future potential employers other than “dates of employment, position held, and salary information.”

In response to a Tribune public records request, the district released Magdaleno’s separation agreement on Aug. 31, the same day the district sent a statement to students’ parents saying that the it is “committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for all students. ...”

Magdaleno reached an agreement to terminate his employment contract effective June 30. Under its terms, Magdaleno can “never be re-hired for any position with LMUSD.”

He was paid $31,812 in wages as part of the June separation agreement, the statement said, “which also says that there is no admission of fault or wrongdoing by either party.”

District pay

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 members of the Nipomo High School girls wrestling team came forward with accusations of inappropriate touching and comments by Magdaleno.

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.

Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth, however, said Aug. 16 that the DA’s Office also conducted its 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.

According to Lucia Mar spokeswoman Amy Jacobs, Magdaleno received approximately $55,601 in wages and $7,831 in health benefits while he was on leave, not working, and under investigation over the roughly nine-month period.

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Non-disclosure

Though Magdaleno has not been charged with a crime, the protections in his separation agreement raise questions as to how school districts share information about past employees.

In a 2015 case one attorney called “a classic example of a school district passing off a bad teacher to another school district,” a Paso Robles High School teacher was convicted of having sex with two students over the course of two years, including a Paso Robles student.

The teacher, Jeremy Monn, had been hired by the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District after he faced allegations of criminal sex acts involving a student in his previous district, Big Oak Flat Groveland Unified School District in Tuolumne County.

After his criminal conviction, Monn’s San Luis Obispo County victim sued Monn and both school districts, alleging that officials didn’t prevent the abuse and that Paso Robles school officials were lied to about the teacher’s past from Big Oak Flat District, which was looking to quietly rid themselves of Monn following allegations of similar crimes there.

The case resulted in a $5 million settlement in 2017 in which Big Oak Flats Groveland paid the victim $4 million, Paso Robles district paid $1 million, and Monn was to pay $40,000.

Monn was sentenced in July 2015 to serve six years and four months in state prison. A search of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s inmate locator did not show Monn in custody as of Wednesday.

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On Aug. 31, the same day the Lucia Mar Unified School District released Magdaleno’s separation agreement in response to a Tribune records request, the district sent out a message to parents of district schools about Magdaleno’s resignation and recent media coverage.

“The district is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for all students, and an environment that is free from sexual harassment by adults and students,” the message reads.

Asked Wednesday how the terms of Magdaleno’s separation agreement — that district officials not disclose anything but pay, position and employment dates to future employers — promote safety in other school districts, district spokeswoman Jacobs did not respond Wednesday.

Seeking money from alleged victim

This week, Magdaleno made clear he is fighting back against the sexual assault allegations made by his alleged Nipomo High School student victim — and is now seeking money from her.

On Aug. 16, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on behalf of a teenage student that named the Lucia Mar Unified School District, Nipomo High School and Magdelano as defendants, and alleged negligent supervision and training, sexual harassment, sexual battery, battery and assault.

The lawsuit claims that Magdaleno sexually abused a female student athlete over the course of two years and school district officials did nothing to prevent it.

In addition to inappropriate touching and comments attributed to Magdaleno, the teen alleges he digitally penetrated her vagina and that she personally witnessed Magdelano commit similar assaults on three other students.

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On Monday, Magdaleno’s attorney, Gregory Myers, filed a response in court generally denying each of the girl’s allegations, writing that the plaintiff does not state facts sufficiently enough to constitute a cause of action.

In addition, Myers wrote that not only was the teenager not injured in any quantifiable way, but that she is liable for her own injuries if any occurred.

Myers wrote that the girl “willfully and voluntarily participated in the sport of wrestling which is a sport involving two persons who grab, twist, throw or otherwise force and hold upon each other’s heads, necks, arms, legs, feet and torsos, with the object of forcing the opponent to the mat and pinning their opponent in what usually is an awkward position,” the lawsuit reads.

“(Jane Doe) had full knowledge of the nature of the sport and of the training and practice that is associated with the sport as well as any and all dangers and risks involved at the time and place alleged in plaintiff’s complaint,” the response states.

Magdaleno seeks a dismissal of the lawsuit, the recovery of legal fees, and “further and different relief as the court may deem just and proper.”

Neither Myers nor Allred responded to a request for comment Wednesday. A case management conference has been scheduled for Dec. 20.

The Lucia Mar school district said the lawsuit made new claims not previously alleged against Magdaleno. The school district says it has now forwarded a copy of the lawsuit to law enforcement for further investigation, and is performing its own internal investigation into the new allegations.

Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth said late Tuesday that his agency has not re-opened an investigation into Magdaleno since the filing of the lawsuit.

The Allred lawsuit was filed as Lucia Mar faces other allegations of wrongdoing involving alleged sexual misconduct by an employee. 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.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for December.

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Matt Fountain: 781-7909, @mattfountain1

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