A convicted sexual predator will not spend any time in custody for having sex with a 12-year-old victim, a decision that prompted outrage from the victim’s mother.
Jeff Calica, 20, pleaded guilty to a single count of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor, but at his sentencing Monday, Judge Michael Washington imposed the agreed-upon terms of his plea bargain.
Calica originally faced up to eight years in state prison for his acts with the girl, who attended Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach.
Judge Washington sentenced Calica to three years in prison, but suspended that sentence and placed Calica on three years of probation.
A spokeswoman for the victim’s family rejected that punishment as inadequate, noting that defendants routinely go to prison for simple possession of child pornography. She said Calica drove to Solana Beach twice from Oxnard, and had sex with the girl both times.
"Your actions and assault [have] turned our lives upside-down and caused a happy little girl’s life to be ripped out from under her feet and be put into a tail-spin of depression, isolation and bitterness," the girl’s mother wrote in a letter to the court.
Judge Washington said he understood why the prosecution and defense made a deal that allows Calica to avoid custody. The judge cited Calica’s relatively young age and his lack of any criminal history.
But the Judge also said he is not sure he completely agrees with what he called a "generous" offer made by the prosecution.
He warned Calica to follow all the terms of his probation, including registering for life as a sex offender, submitting to lie detector tests if requested to do so by his probation officer, and avoiding any social media sites that are popular with children and teens, including Google Hangouts.
Judge Washington warned Calica that he will go straight to prison if he violates probation.
"You’ll be in adult prison for child molestation," he said. "And as you might be aware, that’s not the type of charge that you’re going to want to find yourself in prison for."
The prosecutor did not respond in court to the judge’s concerns about the plea deal or the victim’s mother’s criticism, and was not available for comment after the hearing.
The District Attorney’s office has not responded to a request for comment on the controversial sentencing agreement.
Meanwhile, the girl’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Calica.
The San Dieguito Union High School District is also named in the suit.
"It’s just negligent supervision," said Attorney Mary Bajo, regarding the roles of the district and middle school administrators.
Bajo filed the civil suit on November 30, claiming the seventh-grader at Earl Warren Middle School was "negligently allowed to use school computers to go to online chatrooms where she met Calica … and entered an online relationship."
The suit also states students, including the victim, were allowed to leave school unsupervised and go next door to the Solana Beach Library.
It was twice during those trips to the library–in December 2016 and January 2017–that Calica had sexual encounters with the child in a parking lot near the school.
"I think it’s really scary," said Bajo. "So it’s important that when you drop your child off at school the school fills the role of the parents and really supervises and monitors, and is making the right decisions."
NBC 7 first started investigating the case in November before the suit was filed.
The district has not yet responded to NBC 7’s request for an updated statement, but previously issued the following statement:
"The District has not been served with the lawsuit. Student safety is the top priority of the San Dieguito Union High School District. Student safety includes student privacy, so out of concern for the minor involved, we cannot publicly comment on the allegations at this time. Our middle school networks have advanced filtering to prevent accessing inappropriate websites. All middle school students participate in the Common Sense Digital Citizenship program to empower students to make safe, smart, and ethical decisions online.
We encourage parents to talk to their children of all ages about online safety and behavior. The District recently held a series of parent workshops focused on raising awareness on teen use of technology. It is important that parents have frank discussions with their kids, set boundaries, and monitor their use of personal devices."
Regarding the statement, Bajo said, "While you can block certain things, you have to be a little more aware and be more proactive and keep them safe from dangers out there.”
Meanwhile, Bajo said the 12-year-old girl has been in and out of therapy and is a different person since the incidents.