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Ex-high school principal sentenced to 8 years for molesting students

February 18, 2011 |  1:21 pm

A former principal at a Lynwood high school who allegedly had a history of inappropriate behavior with young girls was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for sexually molesting four students.

Jonas Vital Silverio, 41, who served as Firebaugh High principal until 2009, sat in a Compton courtroom as victims and their mothers tearfully recounted the trauma endured at the hands of a man they initially trusted as an educator and confidante.

Silverio pleaded no contest in June to 10 counts of lewd acts on a child of 14 or 15.

“This man has stained my childhood forever … because of him, I do not trust anybody,” one victim said.

She recalled how Silverio encouraged her as a high school freshman to quit soccer and join the volleyball team, which he coached, by telling her mother it would look more impressive on college applications. He would often inappropriately touch her, she said, once pinning her down on the floor of his office to try and kiss her.

Another victim, frequently breaking down in tears, said fear prevented her from going to authorities sooner.

“At the time, I felt like I had no choice," she said. "He was my coach and my principal.”

Both women, now 19, urged the judge to sentence Silverio to the maximum sentence of eight years.

Prosecutor Stephanie Chavez said Silverio had a history of sexual misconduct.

Investigators found that in 1995 Silverio received probation for a misdemeanor conviction of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He was placed on administrative leave and ultimately fired in 2001 from his job at a Whittier-area school, said Sgt. Peter Hahn of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Hahn said it was unclear why Lynwood Unified School District later determined Silverio was a good candidate for principal at Firebaugh. Calls to the school district were not returned.

He resigned as Firebaugh principal just before trying to leave for the Philippines in May 2009. Detectives arrested him in July at Los Angeles International Airport.

Silverio’s no contest plea stems from the molestation of four girls, all but one of whom played on volleyball teams he coached. The crimes took place mostly on campus and stretched from 1996 to 2007, according to court documents.

Before sentencing Silverio to the maximum eight years, Judge John Cheroske referenced a diagnostic study of the man, which concluded that, “although he acknowledged wrongdoing, he made excuses to rationalize his behavior.”

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-- Shan Li

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