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Former Wood-Ridge High School coach who admitted sex with male student gets probation

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

EXCLUSIVE: A former girls varsity softball coach at Wood-Ridge High School received probation today for having sex with a male student there.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, 29-year-old Jillian Clementi Cooper of Glen Ridge won’t be permitted to teach or coach again in the U.S., either paid or as a volunteer.

“I am very embarrassed and sorry about the offense, and it will never happen again,” Clementi ( above, in court today ) told Superior Court Judge James J. Guida in Hackensack.

Clementi, who also taught at Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, said that she is now “happily married” and “made a bad decision.” She was 25 and the boy 17 at the time, prosecutors said.

The legal age of consent in New Jersey is 16, unless the adult involved is in a position of authority.

As a result, the five-year probation deal was based, in part, on what Guida said was “difficult proof of supervisory control.”

Although Clementi was a coach at the school, she “coached a girls’ team and not the victim’s,” the judge said. Otherwise, she would have faced more serious criminal charges.

Guida said he agreed with prosecutors that Clementi isn’t a risk for a repeat offense, especially since she won’t be teaching or coaching anymore.

Although she must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, the judge didn’t require that Clementi undergo evaluation or treatment at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel.

He called the incident “a significant lapse in judgment.”

Senior Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Catherine Fantuzzi told the judge that Clementi was simply an adult who made a bad decision and was paying the necessary price.

Defense attorney Brian Neary, meanwhile, called her “a talented young lady, a great athlete, who made a very bad choice with regard to misplaced affection … from a different part of her life.”

Neary told the judge that he expects his client, a graduate of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, “will strongly succeed in probation.”

Clementi, who was was married in September 2011 and turns 30 next month, originally was charged with several instances of intercourse and oral sex with the boy between May and July 2009.

Authorities were contacted by Wood-Ridge High School officials after they learned of “sexual activities with the victim during his junior year in high school … at her former [apartment] in Lyndhurst,” Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said after Clementi was arrested in May 2012.

Both IHA and Wood-Ridge High School immediately removed her from her positions.

She pleaded guilty last October to two fourth-degree counts of sexual contact, in exchange for which prosecutors dropped the remaining counts, including impairing or debauching the morals of a minor.

Four second-degree sexual contact charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement, and the remaining two counts were downgraded to fourth degree offenses.

STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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