A former female teacher at an East Palo Alto charter school was sentenced to five years in state prison Friday for her September conviction of four counts of committing sexual acts on a 15-year-old male student in 2015, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
Though Belmont resident Danielle Matko, 35, tearfully apologized for her actions and pleaded for a chance to save her mental health and marriage Friday, several family members of one of the victims upon whom she performed lewd acts spoke on his behalf about the lasting impact of what she had done, according to prosecutors.
On Sept. 27, Matko was convicted of one count of oral copulation on a minor and three counts of lewd acts upon a child after an 11-day jury trial, according to prosecutors.
At the time of the incidents in the fall of 2015, Matko was teaching at the Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy.
Prosecutors alleged that in September 2015, she was talking with a student in her classroom during a free period and showed him her bare breasts, allowed him to touch them and then touched him sexually. On a later occasion, she orally copulated him, prosecutors said.
Though Matko’s four convictions stem from those incidents, the jury also considered a charge related to a second act of oral copulation with that student as well as one related to a lewd act with the first victim and a second 15-year-old, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege the latter incident occurred in November 2015, when both 15-year-olds were in Matko’s classroom. She allegedly removed her blouse and let both victims touch her bare breasts, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the victims told their friends about the incidents and eventually one of the friends reported the allegations to a legal aid lawyer, who called the police.
Though Matko denied any illegal conduct and claimed the victims were making up the story during the trial, she said she was guilty and sorry when she appeared in court Friday. The sister of one of the victims addressed the court saying her brother suffers greatly from the incident, adding he still has flashbacks and is less social, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutor Sharon Cho alleged Matko’s apology was a performance and that she had talked about needing to give a compelling performance to get a lighter sentence on a call recorded from jail, according to prosecutors.
Judge Jonathan Karesh assigned the five-year prison sentence Cho requested, adding that this was child abuse of the worst kind involving predatory behavior against very vulnerable victims, according to prosecutors.
Matko will receive 137 days credit for time served, and has been ordered not to have any contact with the victims and to register as a sex offender. She will next appear in court Dec. 21 for receipt of HIV test results, according to prosecutors.
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