VALPARAISO — Jatwone London told the court Tuesday he had intended to earn a college degree and join the Navy.
But instead, the former assistant diving coach at Portage High School was handcuffed and taken away to begin serving a four-year prison term after pleading guilty to having sex with two female students and possessing partially nude photographs of each girl when he was 18 and 19.
Crying could be heard among those viewing the sentencing hearing and someone uttered, "Love you, baby," as the 20-year-old was led out of the courtroom by security.
London, who had pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and two felony counts of possessing child pornography, will serve a year on home detention upon his release from prison and spend another year on formal probation, according to the agreement he struck with prosecutors.
He also will be required to register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment and have no contact with the two victims.
"He considered himself in a dating relationship with them," Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ryan told Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper.
But London, who was 18 and just recently out of high school when hired as coach, crossed a "line in the sand" that should not have been crossed, she said.
While recognizing the violation of the law, defense attorney Russell Brown said there was no evidence London forced the two girls into sex and had even met the family of one of the girls.
"It was consensual," he said.
This is also London's first criminal offense.
"He is paying a hefty price for his indiscretion," Brown said.
London told the court when pleading guilty in May that 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.
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 did not have proper procedures in place to protect students and failed to investigate when concerns were raised about the coach.
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.