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Ex-Española teacher gets 108 years in child sex case

May 17, 2019

A judge Thursday sentenced former schoolteacher Gary Gregor to a 108-year prison term for sexually assaulting two girls who were students in his fourth grade class at Española’s Fairview Elementary School in 2007.

Gregor still faces additional criminal charges stemming from allegations that he molested students in Santa Fe public schools in the early 2000s before he was fired and he moved to Española.

State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer recalled her own childhood when sentencing Gregor, saying her mother had always told her that children were jewels.

Society entrusts their precious children to educators for teaching and role modeling, Marlowe Sommer said, “but what these two girls, if not more, learned from you, is that monsters are real and trust is a weakness to be exploited.”

In sentencing Gregor to what is a life sentence for the 62-year-old, the judge said she was sending a message to the ex-teacher’s now 21-year-old victims that “their monster can hurt no more.”

Gregor, who was convicted in December of a dozen felonies including multiple counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor, criminal sexual contact of minor and kidnapping, did not address the court at his sentencing. His lawyer said he was afraid any statement he made could be used against him in two cases that have yet to go to trial.

The judge imposed the maximum sentence of 144 years but suspended

36 years. Because his crimes are classified as serious, violent offenses, Gregor must serve at least 85 percent of his time and is not eligible to earn day-for-day good time credit.

Gregor worked as a teacher in Utah and Montana before he began teaching in Santa Fe in 2001.

He was accused of inappropriate behavior with prepubescent girls in both those states before coming to New Mexico, Deputy Attorney General Clara Moran said at Thursday’s hearing, but was never criminally charged.

Docents at the Museum of International Folk Art raised red flags about Gregor’s behavior in 2004, reporting to Santa Fe Public Schools officials that they had witnessed him inappropriately touching female students while on a field trip to the museum with his fourth grade class from Agua Fría Elementary School.

Vickie Sewing, who was principal at Agua Fría at the time, was concerned about the issue, according to public documents, and the school district served Gregor with a notice of discharge.

However, nobody reported him to police, and when Gregor agreed to resign from Santa Fe Public Schools, district officials agreed to provide a neutral recommendation to his next employer.

Española Public Schools hired Gregor in 2005.

He first taught at Mountain View Elementary School in Truchas and was transferred Fairview Elementary School in Española during the 2007-08 school year, which is when he committed the crimes for which he was sentenced Thursday.

According to testimony presented during his trial, Gregor “groomed” his students by giving them gifts, selecting them for special class privileges and inviting them to his home.

He set up screens in his classroom, such as bulletin boards, that blocked from view whatever took place behind them, and he took students into a closet where he is accused of kissing and digitally penetrating them.

One of his victims testified during his trial that she started wearing pants to school instead of skirts in hopes that her teacher would stop putting his hands inside her underwear.

“Maybe I’m being tempting,” the woman said she recalled thinking at the time. “Maybe a skirt is just too provocative.”

Gregor’s victims testified that they reported Gregor to Fairview’s principal at the time, Ruby Montoya. Instead of calling police, she reprimanded the students, and told them not to make false reports against Gregor, who was her friend.

An Española parent finally reported Gregor to Española police in 2009, but still he wasn’t charged.

Gregor’s victims eventually resorted to suing Gregor in civil court.

Española Valley Public Schools has since agreed to pay nearly $10 million to former students who say they were abused by Gregor.

A New Mexico law firm advised the state Attorney General’s Office in a 2011 letter that Gregor was a predator who should be prosecuted to protect the community.

But it wasn’t until six years later, in 2017 — three weeks after one of Gregor’s victims appeared on the network television program Dateline as part of segment called “Passing the Trash,” about schools that unload problematic teachers by hiding alleged misconduct — that the Attorney General’s Office took action against Gregor.

Neither of Gregor’s victims in the case attended Thursday’s sentencing.

Moran, the prosecutor, read a letter from one of the young women, who is incarcerated, who said she believes her life would have turned out differently if she hadn’t been victimized by her fourth grade teacher.

The woman wrote that before Gregor molested her, she was a happy child who got good grades and enjoyed playing basketball.

Afterward, she wrote, she became angry and afraid to allow people to get close to her.

“I couldn’t be around men because I felt afraid,” she wrote. “I couldn’t be around people period. If people came close to me, I would fight.”

She eventually turned to drugs, she said, because it was the only thing that made her feel better and made it possible for her to allow a man to touch her without flinching, and her life spiraled downward from there.

Judith Gregor — Gregor’s wife of nearly 13 years who is a native of the Philippines about 30 years his junior — was the only person who spoke on his behalf.

She testified tearfully that Gregor had made it possible for her to come to the United States and had always taught her to be kind and to “think about the poor.”

Gregor’s attorney, Shelby R. Bradley, said most of his client’s friends have abandoned the former teacher.

“What support he would have been able to rely on normally has fled from him,” Bradley said. “The mere mention of the charges has driven many loved ones away.”

The two criminal cases still pending against Gregor in the First Judicial District are set to go to trial later this year.