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Former Bellport student says she agreed to sex 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

The former Bellport High School student who has accused her sociology teacher of having a sexual relationship with her when she was underage acknowledged Tuesday during cross-examination that she was a willing participant all along.

But the teen, now 18, insisted that the dates of two sexual encounters specified in the indictment of Jonathan Elsalam, 28, of Ridge, were accurate, even after defense attorney David Besso of Bay Shore suggested her memory was foggy.

Elsalam is charged with two counts of third-degree rape and four counts of criminal sexual act for what the teen says was their first sexual encounter in December 2011 and for another shortly before she turned 17 in May 2012.

He faces 2 2/3 to 8 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors continue presenting their case Wednesday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.

Prosecutors say the teacher and student had sex dozens of times, but if the jury is convinced the teen was unsure when these two events took place, it could acquit Elsalam. Newsday is not naming the witness because authorities say she is the victim of a sex crime.

Besso confronted her with testimony she's given in other proceedings, suggesting she was mixed up about when the affair started or confused about specific sexual episodes.

He also attacked her credibility, noting that over the yearlong affair, "that's 100, 200 times you lied to your mother" about her whereabouts.

"Unfortunately, yes," she said.

Besso also suggested the teen pursued criminal charges to bolster a $10-million lawsuit filed against Elsalam and the South Country School District in federal court by her mother.

"I don't care about the money," the witness replied, saying she never heard that a criminal case would help the suit.

After the affair was discovered, she said she was home-schooled for most of her senior year. During her two days on the stand, she testified with poise and confidence, but she was near tears when Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kearon asked why she didn't attend her graduation.

"I didn't want to be harassed," she said.

Kearon also asked why she lied about the relationship to her family and initially to the school, even after it was discovered and he ended it.

"Mr. Elsalam discussed with me keeping the relationship secret," she said. "I was so scared that I was going to get in trouble. And I did not want Mr. Elsalam to get in trouble, because I felt we still had a future together."


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