A former Navy Junior ROTC instructor was sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation Friday after admitting to having sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old female student.
Martin Albert Gallegos, 48, pleaded guilty to statutory rape last month following his April 9 arrest.
The victim addressed the court at Friday's sentencing hearing, describing Gallegos as a mentor who took advantage of her. Gallegos was working at Mar Vista High School. His victim was a student.
The victim said Gallegos made her feel special by lavishing her with praise, bringing her lunch and texting her in the evening.
"I was so confused because I had never had that before in my life," the teenager said of the attention. The student's mother had substance-abuse issues and her father was homeless. She lived with an older sibling and was facing the possibility of being homeless herself.
The victim said she and Gallegos discussed dating once she graduated high school. That gradually moved into a 'why wait' attitude. She described sitting with him while he touched her thighs under his desk.
In her opinion, he should register as a sex offender.
“He should never be put in a position of power like that again,” the victim said.
His attorney asked for leniency in this case because of his client’s service to his country.
The victim's mother questioned how someone who is considered a military hero could not resist the urge to get involved with a minor.
Gallegos gave the victim rides home and gathered details about her personal life in order to prey on her, the victim’s mother said.
"Mr. Gallegos, like anybody who works with children, was supposed to say no," Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Matzger said. "As the judge said, as long as there have been schools, there have been crushes. Adults and teachers need to say no."
Judge Stephanie Sontag ruled that Gallegos will not be required to register as a sex offender.
However, Matzger said if Gallegos violates his probation, prosecutors will argue he should register.
A San Diego County Sheriff’s School Resource Officer received information that a teacher at the school was in a relationship with a female student.
He was also a first-year substitute teacher and was fired after his arrest.
Sweetwater Union High School District officials said they were surprised at the allegations because Gallegos had passed all background checks before he was hired.
But a school district employee told NBC 7 that Mar Vista High School did not run background checks on volunteers. The school district could not or would not provide documentation to show otherwise.
Weeks after Gallegos' arrest, a 27-year old football coach at Mar Vista High School accused of lewd acts with a 13-year old student on school property was arrested. A 20-year old tutor was also arrested on sex crime charges.
Last week, the former tutor, Alejandro Rodriguez, entered a guilty plea Monday to an amended charge - one felony count of statutory rape.
The walk-on football coach, Edward Aaron Mendoza, faces 20 charges related to the alleged relationship, which the San Diego County District Attorney Office said began when the victim was 13 years old. Mendoza has pleaded not guilty to charges.