No bond for area ex-teacher and principal charged in child porn case
A former teacher charged with child pornography crimes lost his bid for bail Wednesday as prosecutors told a judge that he had thousands of explicit images involving kids forced into bondage and bestiality.
Mark Anthony Rodriguez, 52, resigned from teaching at Losoya Intermediate in the Southside School District in December, after agents served a search warrant at his home and allegedly found child porn. He was indicted Aug. 8 on federal charges of distributing, receiving and possessing child pornography.
Homeland Security Investigations special agent Joel Juvette testified that Rodriguez told investigators during the December raid that he was previously a principal and knew of a teacher arrested in the same district. Juvette did not name the school district, but the San Antonio Express-News confirmed that Rodriguez was a principal at South San High School, though he was not a principal when a computer teacher was arrested there in 2013.
“That did not raise a red flag with him, an ‘Oh, my gosh, I shouldn’t be doing this,’” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Thompson told U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Farrer about Rodriguez.
South San ISD spokeswoman Laurie Salazar said that Rodriguez worked for South San from 1991 and resigned in 2011, two years before the previous Homeland Security investigation. Salazar said Rodriguez had various educational jobs at South San ISD, including principal, but he was an instructional technology specialist when he resigned, not a principal.
Juvette testified that Rodriguez came under the crosshairs of his agency last year during an operation in Washington, D.C. that was investigating images of child pornography posted by various users, or accessed, via a computer application.
Using subpoeanas, agents pinpointed one of the users to Rodriguez’s home, and served a search warrant there, seizing his cell phones computers and other devices. A search of the devices turned up 4,700 images and more than 380 videos of child porn , Thompson said.
More child pornography also was found in Rodriguez’s Dropbox and personal email accounts. None was found on his school computers at Southside, Thompson said.
Juvette said Rodriguez had been accessing child pornography since at least June 2016, and told agents he had gone through a rough period when his wife died of brain cancer a few years ago.
“He admitted that to deal with the depression, he would view and possess child pornography,” Juvette testified.
The prosecution also alleged that Rodriguez had conversations with others he shared child porn with about having sex with children.
Rodriguez’s lead lawyer, George Aristotelidis, asked Farrer to release his client on bail to the custody of Rodriguez’s mother, and to impose house arrest with electronic monitoring. He said Rodriguez has back problems and weighs more than 400 pounds, and the federal jail is not a suitable place for him.
But the judge declined, but was amenable to granting bail if conditions changed. Farrer said he was concerned, in part, with children who lived near the home of Rodriguez’s parents.
At Southside’s Losoya school, Rodriguez taught biology to fifth and sixth graders, from December 2015 until December 2017, according to that school district. Previously, he worked at Southside High School as a special education aide and later in student support services from September 2012 to June 2014.
Rodriguez’s last day in the classroom was Dec. 1. On Dec. 5, he submitted a letter of resignation after he was placed on administrative leave when Southside’s police department was informed by Homeland Security that its agents were investigating Rodriguez.
“There is a great danger in that this is a man who views child porn at night and then went into a classrom full of children roughly the same age as those he told others he wanted to have sex with,” Thompson said, urging the judge to keep Rodriguez in jail. “His career is over.”
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @gmaninfedland