This story originally appeared in Saturday’s Daily Post.
BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A former Palo Alto music teacher has been sentenced to a year in Santa Clara County Jail for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student, prosecutors said.
John Patrick Root, 36, of San Francisco, had given the girl music lessons at School of Rock Palo Alto, located in the Midtown Shopping Center. He pleaded guilty in March to two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor.
On Thursday (June 21), Deputy District Attorney Judy Lee asked the court to follow the probation department’s recommendation of one year in county jail, and Root’s attorney did not object.
Root will have to serve his full jail sentence in custody, which means he won’t be allowed to serve part of it at home using an electronic monitoring program or under home detention.
He is, however, eligible for all in-custody programs, according to Cynthia Sumida, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.
Root was handcuffed in court on Thursday and taken to jail to immediately begin serving his sentence. He will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Root was arrested in July, 18 months after he and the student started communicating via email, text messages and social media when she was 14.
After a few months of talking online, the two started seeing each other outside of class, according to the Palo Alto police. The two kissed and touched each other intimately in a park before having sex in Root’s car on two occasions. They also sent each other nude photos, according to police.
The girl was “extremely hesitant” to admit the relationship when questioned by police in July because she said she loved him.
Two months prior, her parents had requested that she be reassigned to a different teacher because they found out the two had been communicating outside of lessons.
During the investigation, the girl’s mother told police that she suspected her daughter had lied to her several times about spending time with Root outside of class and that the two had texted and communicated on Snapchat.
Teacher called suicide hotline
But police weren’t notified of the inappropriate relationship until Root called a suicide hotline in July, identifying himself as a 35-year-old music teacher who had sex with his 15-year-old student.
The girl told Root that she thought she might have a sexually transmitted infection, Root told the hotline operator.
The hotline passed along Root’s name and phone number to the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services, which notified the San Jose police.
San Jose police identified Root as the caller through a records information check, then contacted his brother, who said that Root lived in an apartment in San Francisco and taught at School of Rock. At that point, the case was referred to the Palo Alto police.
Police contacted music school owners Hansel Lynn and Felix Archuleta, who fired Root and gave police Officer Erin Goodell and Sgt. Tony Becker a list of Root’s seven students, two of whom were girls.
Girl tried to protect him
The girl’s father brought her in for police questioning on July 14, where she insisted that she had never spoken to Root outside of class and that he had never flirted or acted inappropriately with her.
Police searched Root’s apartment, including his cellphone, and searched the girl’s cellphone and diary. They didn’t find any evidence of the relationship on Root’s cellphone, but wrote in police reports that they believed he could have deleted it.
Five days later, the girl returned for a second interview with police, where she eventually disclosed the relationship after police told her that they had seen evidence of it in her call history and emails. Police arrested Root in San Francisco the following day, a Friday. He had been out on bail since that weekend until he was remanded into custody on Thursday.