Minor alleges sexual misconduct of former Pecos High coach
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court last week claims Pecos Independent School District administrators were aware of an assistant boys basketball coach’s alleged pattern of sexual misconduct but failed to do anything about it.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Albuquerque by attorney Diane Garrity on behalf of a minor who formerly attended Pecos High School, claims former Pecos assistant boys basketball coach Dominick Baca engaged in a sexual relationship with the minor in 2017 and attempted to establish inappropriate relationships with two other female students in the fall of 2016.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, states Garrity was appointed guardian of the minor on Nov. 1 for the purpose of filing the complaint. Linda Hemphill, the attorney for the plaintiff, said the minor, who is 16, chose to pursue the lawsuit independently.
“We would like to get justice for our client, but we would also like for school districts to wake up,” Hemphill said. “This abuse is happening more and more. It seems that New Mexico schools are behind the curve in terms of taking responsibility for training teachers and students about what is right and wrong and about proper procedures and conducting proper investigations.”
The lawsuit alleges former Pecos Principal Simon Miera, Pecos Superintendent Fred Trujillo and the board of education were aware of Baca’s behavior and did not properly investigate allegations against the coach, who also was the coordinator a program designed to increase the number of graduates who attend college.
Trujillo did not return phone messages left by The New Mexican.
Baca, 29, was arrested in April on suspicion that he engaged in sexual acts with underage female students. Baca is charged with three counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor by school personnel and two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor by school personnel. The case is pending.
A lawsuit filed in May by the parents of one of the underage female students who said she was sexually assaulted by Baca made similar allegations. Hemphill said she sent a copy of the lawsuit to Gerald Coppler, who is representing the school district in the first lawsuit. Coppler did not return a phone message.
The most recent lawsuit claims Baca contacted the minor because of her interest in the college-attendance program, called GEAR-UP. Baca, the lawsuit states, made repeated comments to her that were “of a personal and sexual nature with the intent of creating a personal and inappropriate relationship,” which occurred in February 2017 after the school’s homecoming party at the school. Baca texted the minor on the evening of the event, the lawsuit claims, but Miera learned of her intentions and blocked her from leaving.
The lawsuit alleges Baca and the minor met after the dance near her house and engaged in a sexual act. The pair met again at Baca’s house two weeks later and had sex, the lawsuit states. Baca told the minor not to tell anyone about their relationship, the lawsuit claims, and made sure all photos exchanged between the two by way of Snapchat so that there were no records of them, as well as all text messages between them.
The minor denied having an inappropriate relationship with the coach during questioning in 2017, although the lawsuit does not say whether it was a school district investigation. She did admit to the relationship in the spring of 2018, the lawsuit claims, as state police conducted an investigation into Baca’s conduct.
According to the lawsuit, Baca’s conduct toward female students at the high school was known by Trujillo, Miera and the school board as early as 2016, claiming Baca hung out with Pecos cheerleaders, as well as flirted with and made sexual advances toward students.
Baca also attempted to develop an inappropriate relationship with another Pecos High School student in the fall of 2016, the lawsuit states, and inappropriately touched her sister, who was a middle school student at the time. The student informed the basketball coach, who the lawsuit did not name, and he reported the incident to Miera and Trujillo, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also accuses the school of allowing the minor who filed the lawsuit and the student who told the basketball coach about Baca’s conduct to be harassed and ridiculed by students to the point that both eventually transferred from Pecos High School.