National News

San Diego Junior Theatre teacher convicted of sex with underage student

Posted June 22

— A San Diego Junior Theatre instructor was sentenced Tuesday to three years in state prison after having sex with a 16-year-old girl, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's office.

Eric von Metzke, 35, will also have to register as a sex offender for engaging in sexual acts in October 2016 with a minor who, according to court documents, was a student.

James Saba, the theater's executive director, told 10News reporter Matt Boone that von Metzke was a seasonal employee but denied that the incident happened on their Balboa Park campus.

The theater issued the following statement to 10News:

"San Diego Junior Theatre values a safe and educational environment for all of our students above all else, and successful completion of a background check has been a long standing requirement of employment."

The theater opened in 1948 and bills itself as the oldest continuing children's theater company in the country.

Here's a timeline of events leading to von Metzke's conviction:

On January 9, 2017, the executive director of the theater reported to the San Diego Police what another teacher said was reported to her by the student about von Metzke. The student initially denied the allegations.

On January 23, the student and her mother told the police about the October incident.

On March 14, von Metzke was arrested and charged with three counts: (1) unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor more than three years younger, (2) oral copulation with a minor, and (3) sexual penetration by foreign object.

On April 21, von Metzke pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse and oral copulation.

In a letter of support, von Metzke's mother pleaded for leniency from the judge.

"I am well aware of Eric's guilt in this matter and I do not excuse his actions. He made a grievous mistake, one that is totally out of character," his mother wrote.

She added, "Please do not label him. Eric has a life ahead of him and will do good things, given the chance."

A longtime family friend called him a "man of integrity and honesty and comes from a loving and caring family."

This story is developing. Stay with 10News for more information as it becomes available.

Sandy Coronilla is a KGTV digital producer. Follow her @10NewsSandy

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