Karate Teacher Sentenced for Having Sex With Teens

A martial-arts instructor convicted of having sex with teen-age girls in his Santee studio was sentenced Wednesday to serve one year in a work furlough program and eight years of probation in an intensive program for sex offenders.

Craig Anthony Sepulveda, 37, was sentenced before a courtroom packed with his students, the two victims and their families.

Originally charged with 21 child molestation counts, Sepulveda pleaded no contest Feb. 22 to a charge of committing lewd acts on a child and a charge of having unlawful sex with a second girl.

The acts occurred in 1989 at Sepulveda's Cuyamaca Street studio. He was carrying on a relationship with the girls, who were 14 and 16 years old at the time, and he promised to marry one of the victims.

Sepulveda, of La Mesa, denies he did anything wrong, according to a Probation Department report.

The prosecutor in the case said it was a "gamble" to allow the instructor of Tae Kwan Do, a form of karate, to stay in the community because of his denial.

"It's like a weapon that's loaded and the man who's pulling the trigger doesn't have a conscience," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Douglas Mooney.

Citing Sepulveda's practice of making his students always call him "Sir," Mooney said the Vietnam veteran is "a Pied Piper of sorts," as evidenced by the two dozen students who turned out to support him.

Defense attorney Geraldine Russell said that "expert help and proper supervision" would help her client admit his problem.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Whelan sentenced Sepulveda and ordered him to stop instructing all girls under 18.

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