Former Parlier High School boys basketball coach Anthony Lepore was sentenced to probation Friday for having sexual contact with a student in 2014.
Lepore, who was a 25-year-old, first-year teacher at the time, was originally charged with two felonies related to having an inappropriate relationship with one of his 16-year-old students - he also taught math.
He pleaded no contest in November to a felony charge of sexual penetration by foreign object of a victim under the age of 18. The district attorney’s office dropped the charge of arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd or lascivious behavior.
Had Lepore been found guilty by a jury, he could have faced up to three years and four months in prison.
Prior to his sentencing, Lepore’s attorney Roger Nuttall argued that his client is a good person who made a one-time error in judgment. He also said he didn’t deserve to be put behind bars. Nuttall pleaded with the Judge Michael Idiart to grant his client probation and to not order him to register as a sex offender.
Rising to Lepore’s defense were several of his friends and supporters. Among them was neighbor Josh Carter, a former police officer and youth pastor. Carter said that as a law enforcement officer, he was well aware of the behavior of sexual predators and that wasn’t Lepore.
He said he trusted Lepore and had no problem having him around his family. He also knows that people make mistakes and learn from them.
“I too was a 25 year old once and I know what it means to let your testosterone and hormones affect your judgment and decision making, I have been there,” said Carter. “Anthony is guilty of being an idiot, I have told him as much. But that decision was not based on a chronic illness or propensity as a predator. His decision was based on being a good-looking, 25-year-old- American male.”
Carter considers Lepore a “model young man” who has helped him coach a local church’s sports program for the past three years.
“He is doing what is right and trying to keep his nose clean,” Carter said. “He is trying to make up for his mistake that he realized he made in a moment of pure hormonal excitement.”
Prosecutor Nicole Galstan took exception to the idea that Lepore’s actions were just a lapse in judgment. She wanted jail time for Lepore.
“There has been a failure to take responsibility and to acknowledge his wrong doing,” she said. “It has been a constant list of excuses for his conduct. There have been numerous attempts to blame the victim in this case and attempts to say that Mr. Lepore was a young man with hormones. ‘What was he to do? He made a mistake.’ The people find that offensive. This was a conscious decision by Mr. Lepore to engage in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.”
Galstan said the relationship began when the student was in his math class and it continued through inappropriate text messages, photographs and sexual contact.
It would have continued and even progressed had Lepore not been caught by the victim’s parents in the early morning hours returning their daughter. Lepore had asked the victim to sneak out of her house and meet him, Galstan said.
“This is not her fault and she is not to blame,” Galstan said.
Along with asking for Lepore to be sent to prison, the prosecutor also wanted to have him register as a sex offender for 10 years.
In issuing Lepore’s sentence, the judge acknowledged that neither side was going to like his ruling.
Idiart suspended a two-year prison sentence by giving Lepore probation for two years. As part of his punishment, he must also register as a sex offender for the two years of his probation.
The judge ordered Lepore to serve 90 days in the jail, but he also suspended that, allowing Lepore to serve that time though the adult offender work program.
Lepore must also do 100 hours of community service for a local non-profit group.
The judge admonished Lepore for violating the fundamental trust that exists between a student and their teacher.
“You should know better,” he said. “There is nothing new about girls and I suspect boys having crushes on teachers. That is nothing new. The difference is that the teacher has to be the mature one, the adult in the room and not violate their trust. You have to stand up and resist that sort of thing. You didn’t”