Gutierrez said the 15-year-old boy, who was a student in De Palo’s honor’s English class, was the only victim and that the relationship lasted a few weeks.Alfano said gender was never brought up in plea negotiations, referencing a Star-Ledger analysis of 97 cases which revealed men serve about 40 percent longer jail terms and go to prison more often than women in these cases.Cinefra waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge Linda Zucco. 19 on charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, statutory sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors, indecent exposure, indecent assault and furnishing liquor to minors.Cinefra was a substitute teacher at Plum from 2010 to 2014, as well as a custodian and baseball coach.The non-custodial sentence was previously criticized by West Orange superintendent James O’Neil as too lenient.Both Alfano and Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez said the victim’s family consented to the plea."She thought she was too good; that she could do anything," he said.In court, De Palo took responsibility for the affair, apologizing to the victim in a quivering voice, tears running down her cheeks.
"She was heavily, heavily depressed." The former West Orange high school teacher, who admitted to the relationship with her student, was sentenced in state Superior Court today to a three-year suspended sentence, which means she will not serve any prison time if she cooperates with the conditions of her parole.Erica De Palo was in the prime of her teaching career.Just 31-years-old, with nearly a decade of teaching behind her, letters show the Essex County Teacher of the Year was loved by students and respected by colleagues.Former students, parents, teachers, colleagues and friend sent more than 30 letters in support of De Palo to Judge Peter V. Ryan said in his 15 years on the bench he’d "never seen such an outpouring of love and affection." De Palo declined to talk to the media following the sentencing, rushing into an elevator with her mother and father.Alfano said his client’s plan for the future is simple: "Get better.
De Palo also must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and cannot seek public or government office nor have any contact with the victim.