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Ex-Bellport High teen testifies on alleged affair with teacher

Jonathan Elsalam, 28, prepares to enter court at

Jonathan Elsalam, 28, prepares to enter court at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Feb. 10, 2014, when the trial opened up against Elsalam, who's charged with having sexual relations with a 16-year-old girl while he was a teacher at Bellport High School. Credit: James Carbone

A former Bellport High School student told a jury Friday in explicit detail about an alleged sexual relationship she had with a teacher that she said began when she was 16.

The witness, now 18, testified against Jonathan Elsalam, 28, of Ridge, at his trial on charges of third-degree rape, third-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child.

She testified in a confident, assured voice, smiling as she recalled getting Elsalam as her sociology teacher in September 2011, the start of her junior year. Newsday is not identifying her because authorities say she is the victim of a sex crime.

"I was excited. I knew he was a good teacher," she said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kearon. "I thought he was cute."

At the time, she was captain of the school's varsity soccer team. She said she often went to the extra-help sessions he had between the end of the school day and the start of practice. "I didn't need extra help for that class," she said.

Before long, she said Elsalam -- who resigned since his arrest -- become flirtatious. If they were alone in the extra-help sessions, she said she'd talk to him about family issues she had.

On Nov. 2, she sent an email to his school account in which she thanked him for his advice on those issues, saying "don't take this the wrong way, but your probably one of my best friends the last 3 years." Jurors viewed the email on a screen in Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn's Riverhead courtroom.

After that, she said Elsalam gave her his personal email address and one day, while alone in an extra-help session, he told her he had a crush on her. They began to send each other text messages constantly, even during his class.

"It was almost like borderline euphoric," she said. "I was ecstatic."

In late November or early December 2011, she said he picked her up one day down the street from a friend's house, went to a spot on Long Island Sound and they talked for three hours.

They continued to get together in his car and eventually she said they kissed. In early December, she said he drove her to a deserted, wooded area near his home and they had oral sex and intercourse in the backseat of his car.

Elsalam's attorney, David Besso of Bay Shore, will cross-examine her on Tuesday. In his opening statement Monday, he acknowledged the sexual relationship between the girl and his client, but said there's no proof it began before she turned 17, which would make it a crime. Elsalam faces 2 2/3 to 8 years in prison if convicted.

"She doesn't have a great memory of things that occurred, if they did in fact occur," Besso said then.

The teen testified Friday that she and Elsalam met for sex three or four times a week, initially in his car but later at Riverhead motels. She said the relationship continued a month into her senior year in 2012, when a friend alerted school officials and Elsalam ended it.


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