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Former BPS employee sentenced to 12-15 years in state prison for raping Mario Umana Academy student

A former paraprofessional at the Mario Umana Academy in East Boston was sentenced Friday to 12 to 15 years in prison following his conviction on four counts of aggravated rape of a child and one count of aggravated assault and battery on a child.

The victim was a developmentally disabled boy at the K-8 public school, Suffolk County prosecutors said.

Jose M. Melendez, 55, was convicted in Suffolk Superior Court May 31. Superior Court Judge Jackie A. Cowin sentenced him Friday after the victim’s father described the emotional and social impact the sexual abuse had on his son, according to court records and Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden’s office.


The abuse took place during 2015 and 2016, when the victim was in 5th and 6th grade, prosecutors said. The victim’s disabilities “impact his ability to communicate and other areas of his development,” according to prosecutors. He disclosed the abuse when he was in high school, prosecutors said.

Once in high school, he “started showing signs of being more distracted with everything. At this time, [he] showed signs of being depressed,’' his father told the judge, according to prosecutors. “He also lost a lot of weight because he never wanted to eat. He was always sad. "

The victim’s social outlook also changed. Where once he enjoyed going to school, he became reluctant to attend and would often argue with his father when his father insisted that he go, the father said. “It wasn’t until he was in high school when [he] couldn’t hold it in anymore and had to share what was happening with him,’' the father told the judge, according to prosecutors.

In court papers, Melendez’s lawyer, Joseph B. Simons, asked that his client face a maximum of 10 years behind bars, noting he had no prior criminal convictions, was the primary caretaker of his 87-year-old partner whose health is steadily declining, and was a “beloved teacher” at the East Boston school.


“Mr. Melendez had been a beloved teacher at the Mario Umana Academy. Even the Commonwealth’s witnesses had nary a bad word to say about Mr. Melendez in their testimonies,” he wrote. “He so loved his position and the children he helped that he even dressed up as a clown during a school event.”

Simons also called the convictions “alarmingly severe” and argued that a 10-year sentence “followed by two years of supervised probation will ensure the goals of punishment, deterrence, protection of the public, and rehabilitation.”

Prosecutors urged Cowin to impose a 12-to-15-year sentence for each of the rape convictions, to be served concurrently, noting the victim was 11 years old and Melendez was 48 years old when he committed the crimes, according to records. A single count of aggravated rape of a child carries a mandatory 10-year sentence, prosecutors said.

“The actions of the defendant clearly demonstrate that he did not care that he was hurting this victim or that he was running a very real risk of causing lasting harm and damage that would stay with him for life,” Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Amanda Paull wrote in court papers. “He chose the calculated exploitation of children in order to satisfy a twisted desire that he knew was wrong.”

Melendez will also have to register as a sex offender, according to court records. Cowin denied Melendez’s request to remain free pending his appeal.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.