A Suffolk County Court judge sent a former Bellport High School social studies teacher to jail for 60 days Thursday for having an ongoing sexual relationship with an underage student.
Judge Barbara Kahn also sentenced Jonathan Elsalam, 28, of Ridge, to 3 years probation. Elsalam was acquitted in February of two counts of third-degree rape and four counts of third-degree criminal sexual act for specific encounters, but convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, for the relationship with a girl who was 16 when it began in 2011. Because of the nature of the crime, Newsday is not identifying the victim.
Now 19, she spoke angrily before Kahn imposed sentence, saying she was a victim of "betrayal, manipulation, deceit" by her teacher. She acknowledged her role in pursuing the relationship, but said she sees now that he took advantage of her vulnerability.
"His charisma and comfort during this entire ordeal was blinding," she said. As a result of the relationship, she said she betrayed her family, ruined her high school experience and has compromised her ability to be open in college.
"I've been called disgusting things through this entire thing," she said. "Slut, ho and my favorite, trifling whore. As the victim, I'm constantly blamed."
Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kearon said it's easy for others to judge the victim, but said that should be reserved for Elsalam. Kearon said she was astounded that people wrote letters of support for him.
"What kind of role model is this man?" she said. Afterward, Kearon said she was "delighted" by the sentence.
Defense attorney David Besso of Bay Shore wasn't.
"Mr. Elsalam apologizes for any pain he's caused the victim," Besso said, adding that nevertheless she seemed to be doing fine.
Besso said the girl aggressively pursued a relationship, "stalking" him in school, and that he's paid a high price for failing to resist.
"There is a temptation, no question about it," Besso said. "He has lost, for his life, the ability to teach. He was a great teacher."
Besso said any jail time was unwarranted. He said he would appeal both the sentence and the verdict.
Before imposing sentence, Kahn said she found it "offensive" that Besso suggested she imposed a jail sentence merely because she was upset about the rape acquittal. She noted that because Elsalam refused to speak in court or during preparation of a pre-sentence report, it's "impossible to know his level of remorse, if any."
She said Elsalam knew his victim well and had no confusion about her age. She also noted that in New Jersey and Connecticut, the crime he was convicted of is a felony.