VALPARAISO — A former assistant diving coach at Portage High School faces a four-year prison term after pleading guilty Tuesday to having sex with two female students and possessing partially-nude photographs of each girl when he was 18 and 19.
Jatwone London, who is now 20, sat motionless while pleading guilty in return for the agreed-to sentence and prosecutors dropping one felony count of possessing child pornography.
The plea triggered at least one disparaging comment about London from an audience member observing the court proceedings.
London pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and two felony counts of possessing child pornography.
The proposed plea, which was taken under advisement by Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper until a potential sentencing hearing July 9, calls for London to serve a year on home detention and a year on probation upon his release from prison. He also will have to register as a sex offender and undergo HIV testing.
London told the court Tuesday he was in a relationship with one of the girls between December 2017 and April 2018 when she was 15 and he was 18 and 19. He said he even met her mother.
He said he and the girl had sex during their time together, and she also sent partially-nude photographs of herself that he kept on his cellphone.
The second girl, who was also 15 during April 2018, was involved sexually with London and also sent him partially-nude photographs he kept on his phone, he told the court.
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London and one of the girls reportedly knew that an exception in the law that could shield the older partner from criminal conviction did not apply to them, but they decided "to take the risk," according to charging information.
The "Romeo and Juliet" law requires four conditions be met, including that the accused be no more than four years older than the alleged victim, not have a position of authority over the victim, involve a dating relationship and the accused cannot have committed another sex offense, including acts as a juvenile.
A civil lawsuit filed against Portage Township Schools in the case claims the district failed to protect one of the female students from sexual abuse by London.
The schools did not have proper procedures in place to protect students and failed to investigate when concerns were raised about the coach, according to the lawsuit.
Portage Township Schools attorney Ken Elwood denied the accusations at the time, saying the school system terminated London's employment immediately upon learning about the allegations.
Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter
Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.