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Ex-teacher sentenced to five years for molestation

Danielle Matko expressed remorse for sexual acts against two East Palo Alto boys

Former teacher Danielle Matko tearfully begged a San Mateo County judge for leniency during her sentencing hearing for molesting two East Palo Alto boys on Friday afternoon. But Superior Court Judge Jonathan Karesh instead called her behavior "predatory" and said her actions took advantage of her position of power. He sentenced her to five years in state prison, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, said.

Matko, 33, of Belmont, apologized and said she was genuinely sorry for her actions. She asked Karesh to let her save her marriage and her mental health by instead sentencing her to probation. A jury convicted her of one count of oral copulation on a minor and three counts of lewd acts on a 14- or 15-year-old. She was an English teacher at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy. She was accused of engaging in the sexual contact with two 15-year-old male students from Sept. 1 to Nov. 14, 2015.

The jury found Matko guilty on in late September of a lewd and lascivious act on one of the boys but couldn't reach a verdict on the count of oral copulation involving the other victim. She pleaded not guilty in January 2016, denying the allegations and saying the boys were lying.

The first child's family spoke in court prior to Matko's sentencing, Wagstaffe said.

Matko will have to register as a sex offender, but a new law, Senate Bill 384, which is going into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, would modify the Sex Offender Registration Act from a required lifetime registration after the person is released from incarceration to a three-tiered registration based on the offense.

The tiered registration will allow persons convicted of lesser sex crimes to petition for a reduced registration time of 10 or 20 years, depending in part on the convict's likelihood of recommitting a sex crime. The district attorney's office will provide its opinion, but a judge will decide to accept or reject the petition. Persons convicted of serious or violent crimes would not be eligible for the shortened registration period.

Matko could conceivably be removed from the registry after 20 years, according to the law.

Wagstaffe said that he and other district attorneys approve of the new registration law because not all offenders should be in the lifetime category.

"We know people who as a 26-year-old had sexual relations with a 16-year-old," Wagstaffe said, adding that, while it was illegal, the question is whether it is as egregious as the acts of a violent rapist. "It's a good evolution in the law."

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2017 at 1:19 am

Justice ALMOST well served! Sentence too short by 10 years.


4 people like this
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

To Mike: You are correct. The sentence should have been for life with the possibility of parole. The reporter elaborated at great length describing the circumstances of this case but said nothing in our opinion of the comments of Steve Wagstaffe “tiered registration” or at the very least provide a link to SB 384 Web Link Again, very poor reporting... Waiting now for my comments to be removed or censored


3 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

I know it is a double standard, but a women having sex with a 14 or 15 year old boy is not molestation. She should be fired, banned from teaching, but doesn't deserve jail time.


19 people like this
Posted by No feminist, but . . .
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm

@John Alderman: You must be joking. A male can be traumatized as well as a female. She was an authority figure!

How do they prove this stuff from a he/said/she said? What if she denied it?

Are people getting weirder or did this happen decades ago but no reporting or no news on it, due to lack of the internet?

I'm convinced that many of the drug/alcohol addicted are victims of molestation. I knew someone in my class who finally took his life in his 40s.


3 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2017 at 1:12 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Lenny
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

I hope the comment by PAFreePress was a joke. "Life with the possibility of parole" for this crime? If the comment was real, we know why the USA has the largest prison population in the world. Police murder unarmed suspects and walk free but this woman should get life? You've got to be kidding.


6 people like this
Posted by Double Standard
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2017 at 11:24 am

@John Alderman

I was pondering the same issue because 5 years in state prison seemed too much. (Compare that to the Zarate case: illegal alien, deported 5 times, felon in possession of a gun, shooting and killing, and set free by a San Francisco jury -- not even convicted of involuntary manslaughter!).

Then I realized that I had a double standard: the male/female-teacher/student crime does not feel symmetric. A male teacher having sex with a 15 year old girl seems to me considerably worse than a female teacher having sex with a 15 year old boy.

But of course the latter is a serious crime as well. Jail time seems appropriate; 5 years seems excessive.


8 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Brock Turner got 6 months and this woman gets 5 years? Wow!


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 4, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Couldn't she get Judge Persky?


Like this comment
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2017 at 4:49 pm

How long was Mary Kay LeTourneaux in jail? A Redwood City female teacher went to jail a decade or so ago while her mother took care of the baby resulting from her repeated "molestation" of a middle school boy.
If Brock Turner had been 17 instead of 19, would his 25 year old non-student victim have gotten as much public sympathy as she did?
5 years does seem like a long sentence for this predator as there's no indication she was violent toward the victims. I hope mandatory counseling/therapy is included with the incarceration. Good luck though with saving her marriage.


1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 4, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Yes, it’s true that her behavior wasn’t violent, but it was indeed predatory. The victims lives are changed forever, so 5 years seems minimal by comparison. These boys are left with trust issues, feelings of guilt and shame, and relationship issues to deal with, so I hope the are getting the counseling support they need and deserve. Too many people assume it’s not such a big deal with boys. It is, and they are less comfortable seeking support.


2 people like this
Posted by Jim Carroll Jones
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2017 at 10:58 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Post
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 4, 2017 at 11:37 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Just Yo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2017 at 12:17 pm

"Yes, it’s true that her behavior wasn’t violent, but it was indeed predatory. The victims lives are changed forever, so 5 years seems minimal by comparison. These boys are left with trust issues, feelings of guilt and shame, and relationship issues to deal with, so I hope the are getting the counseling support they need and deserve. Too many people assume it’s not such a big deal with boys. It is, and they are less comfortable seeking support."

You're making a lot of unwarranted assumptions here.


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