A former High Tech High School student alleges a teacher there groomed, sexually assaulted, and impregnated her over several years, beginning when she was a freshman.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The woman, identified only as E.P. since she was a minor when the majority of the allegations occurred, was a 14-year-old freshman at High Tech High School in 2005 and John Jefferson was her history teacher, her lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court on August 23rd begins.
“Mr. Jefferson from early on in freshman year began lecturing E.P. on the importance of loyalty. Defendant would tell E.P. that loyalty was the most important trait anyone could have,” the suit says.
“Defendant told E.P. that ‘if a friend asks you for help in burying a dead body, you help, and you never speak a word of it to anyone.’ This was said only so that Defendant could cloak his sexual desire and pursuit of the minor student E.P.”
The court filing says more “unlawful conduct and grooming behavior” took place during her sophomore year as Jefferson would ask her to stay with him after school and during free periods, in addition to helping run other extracurricular activities she participated in.
At this point, Jefferson allegedly began bringing her gifts and asking the plaintiff inappropriate questions about her boyfriend, as well as telling her about his past sexual experiences in explicit detail.
Jefferson is also accused of sexually assaulting her twice in May of her senior year and continued “a regular sexually abusive relationship” after she began staying in his apartment.
Although she was enrolled at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, she ended up taking online courses due to Jefferson’s insistence that she stay local, the lawsuit asserts.
After her parents had learned she was not attending McDaniel and was living with Jefferson, they allegedly reported it to High Tech High School, with then-Principal Jospeh Giammarella refusing to do anything about it since E.P. had graduated.
“Stop talking. She’s graduated. Good. I don’t want to hear anything further and I don’t want to hear it again,” he allegedly told Jefferson after he called him into his office to discuss the matter.
“During her time with Mr. Jefferson, E.P. was physically, financially, emotionally, and sexually abused. Mr. Jefferson succeeded in convincing her that he was the only person who could keep her safe due to 20 years of martial arts training,” the lawsuit continues.
“Defendant also made sure that she knew she could not achieve any success without him. She was led to believe that he was the smartest person in the world.”
Through the suit, E.P. also claims that Jefferson would routinely choke her until she would nearly lose consciousness and use jiu-jitsu holds as a form of foreplay, on top of routinely shouting and her and occasionally punching walls.
In 2012, E.P. was pregnant and she was unable to tell her parents until she was six or seven months due to Jefferson’s monitoring of her communications. He also allegedly screamed at her to get an abortion.
“You are just keeping the baby to ruin my life. Why do you hate me so much? Why are you doing this to me?,” he told her at the time, according to the pending litigation.
When she was eight months pregnant, she was finally able to escape captivity at Jefferson’s home, though he still tried to be present for the birth of their daughter, though hospital security and E.P.’s father made sure he was escorted out of the hospital.
E.P. is represented by the Toms River-based Robert Fuggi, of Fuggi Law Firm and the district is defending against the suit.
A Hudson County Schools of Technology spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation, but a source with knowledge of the situation said that E.P.’s allegations were previously brought to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and they declined to prosecute the matter.