Former BMS teacher receives probation for inappropriate contact with teen

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A former Belen Middle School teacher was sentenced to three years of supervised probation Tuesday for two felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Manuel G. Martinez III, 42, pleaded no contest in March to charges that he convinced a 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.

District Court Judge William Sanchez sentenced Martinez to 18 months with the New Mexico Department of Corrections Department on each count, but suspended the entire sentence.

"You will carry these convictions with you as a result of these actions," Sanchez told Martinez. "The probation department wants me to send you to prison, the (district attorney's) office wants me to send you to prison. But I am just going to tag you as a felon."

Sanchez said he wasn't sure if Martinez understood the magnitude of the charges against him. The judge said it was "troubling" that the victim in the case is younger than the defendant's 18-year-old daughter.

The judge said Martinez didn't admit that he did anything wrong after his wife told the court that Martinez was sorry for his actions.

"I am not sure that we have even heard that from your lips as far as you doing something incredibly wrong," Sanchez said. "I don't think you have acknowledged that. (In) this process you have, of course, caused all this anguish for yourself, but probably even more so for your family ― they are embarrassed."

Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay said Martinez denied "absolutely any wrongdoing" from the incident.

Prosecutors 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.

"You can take a horse to water, but you cant make him drink, your honor," McKay said. "There has been multiple attempts. Still, we have somebody who won't take the very first step necessary other than continue to be a threat to society."

Martinez apologized to the victim and her family in court Tuesday, and said the experience had "a profound impact" on his life. He said he plans to attend additional schooling to earn his master's degree.

"I am sorry for the pain that I have caused," Martinez said. "I regret my actions and accept full responsibility for them."

Martinez's defense attorney Joe Allred said his client has taken it upon himself to attend counseling and has learned that he crossed boundary lines by being in contact with the girl.

Allred said Martinez never requested nude photos of the girl and that the series of events following the incident have been "life-altering."

"Never did he request a nude photo or any (photo) of private parts of the victim," Allred said. "Were they inappropriate photos to be requested and sent? Absolutely."

Allred was denied a request for a conditional discharge for his client, which would have meant that the felony conviction could be removed from Martinez's record after he completed his probation.


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