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Prosecutors: State's "Romeo and Juliet" defense does not protect Portage High School coach in student sex case
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Prosecutors: State's "Romeo and Juliet" defense does not protect Portage High School coach in student sex case

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VALPARAISO — One of two female Portage High School students claiming to have had ongoing sexual encounters with an assistant dive coach at the school reportedly knew about an exception in the law that could shield the older partner from criminal conviction.

But the girl said while she and the accused, 19-year-old Jatwone London, of Portage, knew the exception did not apply in their situation, they decided "to take the risk," according to charging information.

The exception in question is informally known as the "Romeo and Juliet" law, though it is actually a defense included as part of the state code for sexual misconduct with a minor (35-42-4-9), according to Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel.

In order for the defense to apply, all four conditions spelled out in the law must be met, he said.

The first condition is that the accused is no more than four years older than the alleged victim, according to the law.

Police said London is more than four years older than at least one of the two girls, who is a member of the school dive team.

The second condition is that "the relationship between the person and the victim was a dating relationship or an ongoing personal relationship. The term 'ongoing personal relationship' does not include a family relationship."

One of the alleged victims in this case reportedly told investigators she was in a "romantic relationship" with London, who said he had sex with the girl as many as 50 times since December.

The third condition says the alleged crime was not committed by someone at least 21 years old and was not carried out threatening deadly force, while armed with a deadly weapon and did not result in serious bodily injury, according to the law. The accused also cannot have carried out the act while the alleged victim was under the influence of a controlled substance provided without their consent and was not committed by someone "having a position of authority or substantial influence over the victim."

London was the assistant diving coach to one of the two alleged victims, according to charging information. He has since been suspended from that position.

The final condition says the accused cannot have committed another sex offense, including acts as a juvenile, against another person.

The alleged victim must also be between the ages of 14 and 16, after which point the age of consent applies in Indiana, Gensel said. Offenses committed against someone younger than 14 fall under the child molesting laws, he said.

London is charged with two felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and three felony counts of possessing child pornography. He is accused of having swapped sexually explicit photos with the girls via their cell phones.

London is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on the charges Friday afternoon before Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper.

According to Times archives, London is a former diver for Portage High School.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail

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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.

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