Former teacher takes plea deal in juvenile case

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The former Belen Middle School teacher arrested in connection with trying to lure a 15-year-old girl into having alcoholic drinks with him last year pleaded no contest Tuesday to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Manuel G. Martinez III, 42, pleaded no contest to the charges where he convinced the 15-year-old girl to send provocative photos to him via text message.

Los Lunas police arrested Martinez last March after officers sent text messages from the girl’s phone to make him believe he was inviting the girl out for drinks.

Los Lunas Police Lt. Vince Torres, who impersonated the girl, said the then-Belen High School sophomore notified the school’s resource officer after Martinez made contact with her on campus earlier that week.

Martinez was apparently on campus representing a test preparation organization that helps students prepare for mandatory standardized tests.

Torres, posing as the girl via text message, arranged a meeting at Walmart in Los Lunas in what Martinez believed was supposed to be a meeting between him and the girl.

Assistant District Attorney LaDonna Giron asked District Court Judge William Sanchez to run Martinez’s sentences consecutive. Martinez faces a sentence ranging from probation to three years in prison.

The remaining charges, which included aggravated stalking, were dismissed. No sentencing date has been set.

Giron said Martinez contacted the girl via Facebook and through text messages. The girl eventually sent pictures of herself where she was posed in a provocative manner, the prosecutor said.

“He induced this minor child to send him two photographs of herself posing in a sexually suggestive manner,” Giron told the judge. “The state contends and the defendant agrees, by his no contest plea, that this caused or tended to cause the victim to act in manner that was (bad) for her morals and her health.”

According to police, Martinez sent text messages that included him asking the girl to take “a side view” picture, and at one point, told the girl her legs “are fit and fine” through texts.

Another text message from Martinez asked the girl how much alcohol she could drink.

“I will have to try some (alcohol),” the text message read. “How much does it take you to get buzzed?”

Police said they found two bottles of Hypnotiq ― a type of alcohol Torres suggested Martinez bring the day he thought he was meeting the girl — in his vehicle.

In June 2010, records obtained by the News-Bulletin show that images of partially nude women were accessed on the computer that was assigned to Martinez in February 2010 while he was a teacher at Belen Middle School.

The images were accessed on websites that contained images of nude women in provocative poses. Records show that the images were accessed on two separate dates that month.

A week later, Martinez was no longer teaching at the school.

Last year, the former middle school teacher told the News-Bulletin he took a voluntary leave for the remainder of the 2009-10 school year to help with a family member’s business. He said the leave from work was not for anything school-related.

But Superintendent Ron Marquez, who was the human resources director at the time, said school district officials filed a report with the State Public Education Department because of allegations of inappropriate behavior by Martinez.

Martinez was not offered a new contract for the 2010-11 school year. Martinez was not charged in that incident.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.