07 May 2013 Former Triton Teacher Martinelli Learns His Fate in Court

As his alleged victim sat silently in the back of the courtroom, former teacher Nicholas Martinelli was sentenced Wednesday to two years probation for trying to cover up a sexual relationship he reportedly had with her.

Martinelli, who was a physical education teacher at Triton Regional High School, pleaded guilty in March to a lesser charge of hindering an investigation, as part of an agreement with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

He was originally charged with official misconduct in the case, which involved two other Triton teachers. Unlike the other two teachers, Jeffrey Logandro and Daniel Michielli, who were implicated in sexual relationships with underage female students, Martinelli's relationship was with an 18-year-old student, authorities said.

Martinelli, 29, admitted to impeding an investigation into his relationship with the student by telling her to keep their association secret, according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

Martinelli's attorney, Saul J. Steinberg of Camden, on Wednesday asked a judge not to sentence his client to probation, saying the disgraced teacher took full responsibility for his actions.

State Superior Court Judge Irvin J. Snyder scoffed at the request, telling Martinelli he needed to be punished "not only to deter you from this conduct, but also to send a strong message to other individuals that this type of conduct should not be tolerated."

'A breach of trust'

The judge added that Martinelli's conduct "was not just a general breach of trust to the community, but definitely a breach of trust to the victim and her family.

"You put yourself, or your needs and wants, over those of the people you were entrusted to watch over. Certainly that cries out for punishment."

Martinelli, wearing a gray pinstriped suit, striped tie and glasses with black frames, did not make a statement before he was sentenced.

His alleged victim, identified in court only as "M.M.," had submitted a victim-impact statement to the judge, but it was not read during the sentencing. She sat in the courtroom gallery with about a dozen other people.

Martinelli, a former Cherry Hill resident now living in Pennsylvania, resigned from his teaching job at Triton when he pleaded guilty in March; he had been on administrative leave for more than six months during legal proceedings.

Charges pending, lawsuits possible

The scandal at the high school in Runnemede broke in October 2012, when prosecutors filed criminal charges against Martinelli, Logandro and Micheilli, accusing them of engaging in sexual relationships with three female students. Two administrators at the school were also charged in connection with the case, and accused of trying to cover up the teacher's inappropriate relationships with the students.

Michielli and Logandro both pleaded guilty and received 30 days house arrest. Former Triton principal Catherine DePaul, who pleaded guilty to a disorderly persons charge of failure to report to law enforcement allegations of child abuse or neglect, was sentenced in February to 30 days probation and forfeiture of her right to hold public office in New Jersey.

Only the charges against vice principal Jernee Kollock remain. Kollock, who as Triton vice principal allegedly received information about the three teachers' relationships with students on April 23, 2012, is charged with both second-degree official misconduct and the disorderly persons charge of failure to report the alleged crimes to law enforcement. She was transferred to Timber Creek Regional High School last summer, and remains suspended with pay.

Her case is pending presentation to a grand jury, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

Even after Kollock's criminal case is resolved, the legal issues surrounding the scandal may not be over.

In November 2012, attorneys representing the three students involved in the case filed notices indicating their clients intend to sue the school district.