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New suit accuses ex-teacher of sexually abusing girls at Agua Fría Elementary

October 13, 2018

A lawsuit against former schoolteacher Gary Gregor contains new details of allegations that he sexually assaulted two students at the old Agua Fría Elementary School during the 2003-04 school year, including claims that he repeatedly raped a fourth-grader in his classroom and gave her “injections.”

Gregor is facing criminal counts of sexually abusing students in multiple cases in Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties. Two of the accusers are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the state District Court in Santa Fe.

While the new suit is the first naming Santa Fe Public Schools as a defendant, it is the fourth that has been filed against Gregor by students accusing him of sexual misconduct. The other three complaints were filed by students at schools in Española, where Gregor taught after leaving the Santa Fe district.

“It took a lot of adults doing nothing for this to happen over and over again,” said Carloyn “Cammie” Nichols, an attorney who has been representing clients in civil cases against Gregor.

According to the new lawsuit, a group of students at the former Agua Fría Elementary told officials about Gregor’s odd behavior, raising fresh questions about why the Santa Fe district, which asked Gregor to resign in 2004, did not report him to police.

He was hired in 2005 by Española Public Schools, where he’s accused of assaulting more children until 2009, when parents reported him to police, prompting the state Public Education Department to revoke his teaching license.

An Española police detective forwarded his findings to then-District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco.

But it took another eight years for law enforcement officials to charge Gregor with a crime.

Nichols has reached settlements with Española Public Schools — one for $3.2 million and one for $4.37 million — in two other lawsuits she’s filed accusing the district of failing to protect her clients against Gregor. A third suit, filed in September 2017, is pending. According to the lawsuits, Gregor was accused of inappropriate behavior with students in Utah and Montana before coming to New Mexico.

The new suit alleges Gregor began a pattern of abuse at Agua Fría Elementary by making the two fourth-grade girls his “helpers” and seating them close to him. He had them sit on his lap, the complaint says, “tickled” them and gave them gifts.

Later, the suit alleges, Gregor would have the girls stay in his classroom — separately — during lunchtime or recess and would would fondle them beneath their clothes and make them touch his genitals.

He undressed one of the girls, the suit says, and took photos of her while she was unclothed.

He also gave her “shots,” the complaint alleges, telling her he was injecting her with substances that would make her smart and beautiful.

The child was often weak and disoriented after these assaults, the lawsuits says, and she sometimes vomited afterward.

“At some point,” the suit says, “Gregor advanced to raping [the girl] vaginally.”

After the first time, the suit says, the girl began to bleed; Gregor sent her to the nurse, telling her to say she was having her first menstrual period.

Other students reported concerns about Gregor to an administrator named “Morales,” the suit says.

Santa Fe Public Schools spokesman Jeff Gephart said Thursday the district does not comment on pending litigation. Gephart confirmed, however, that Eugene Morales was the assistant principal at Agua Fría Elementary that year.

Morales, who is not named as a defendant in the suit, could not be reached for comment.

Gregor’s attorney said he had no comment on the new civil case.

The complaint does name then-Principal Vickie L. Sewing as a defendant.

An official at the Museum of International Folk Art called and emailed Sewing after a class field trip, saying docents had observed “inappropriate behavior” between Gregor and a student, the suit says.

Sewing interviewed some of Gregor’s students and reported she had “serious concerns” about possible “grooming behavior,” the suit says, but she determined the behavior “does not seem to constitute child abuse or criminal sexual conduct or a more serious sexual act.”

In June 2004, Gregor agreed to resign without a formal hearing, and district officials agreed to give him a “neutral reference.”

Nichols said she first became involved in Gregor cases in 2011, when the Española parents who had reported him to police two years earlier sought her help.

“They were frustrated because the DA’s Office hadn’t done anything,” Nichols said, “So we got in touch with the DA’s Office and … they said because there wasn’t any physical evidence, they weren’t going to prosecute.”

Then-New Mexico Attorney General Gary King’s office wouldn’t pursue charges, either, she said.

In April 2017, one of Nichols’ clients appeared on Nightline as part of a segment called “Passing the Trash,” about schools unloading problem teachers by keeping quiet about misconduct.

Attorney General Hector Balderas, elected in 2016, also appeared on the show, saying there had been “obvious systemic failures” in the case.

A few weeks later, Balderas filed criminal charges against Gregor.

David Carl, a spokesman for the attorney general, said in an email Thursday that Balderas decided to take on the case after obtaining information in 2016 about new child rape allegations against Gregor.

Balderas also has “pushed for legislation that expands the mandatory reporting of Child Abuse and intends to ask legislators to revisit this legislation in 2019,” Carl said in the email.

Gregor, meanwhile, declined a plea deal that would have exposed him to a possible 50 years in jail.

He’s now scheduled to go to trial in three criminal cases, in which he faces up to 165 years in prison if convicted.

His first trial is set to begin in December.

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