District judge denies VHS hazing defendant early release from probation

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A district court judge has denied releasing one of three former Valencia High School students accused of sexually hazing a fellow football player from probation.

Curtis Peralta, 20, went in front of District Court Judge William Sanchez last Tuesday, asking him to reconsider his sentence, which included supervised probation. Peralta's attorney, Michael Griego, said his client has attended five counseling sessions and has complied with all terms of the probation.

Peralta was sentenced in February to up to 18 months supervised probation after pleading guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in August 2011. Sanchez gave Peralta a conditional discharge, meaning his conviction will be wiped off the books if he successfully completes his probation.

He pleaded guilty to the lesser counts in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining charges, which included one count of aiding or abetting criminal sexual penetration, one count of aiding or abetting criminal sexual penetration of a minor, conspiracy to commit criminal sexual penetration and conspiracy to commit criminal sexual contact of a minor.

His two co-defendants, Jeremiah Carroll and Jake Sanchez, entered no-contest pleas to aggravated battery in September 2012. They were sentenced in November to supervised probation.

The three were accused of sexually assaulting another member of the school's football team while he was getting dressed after practice.

Griego also told the judge that Peralta's probation officer said he doesn't have the authority to release him early from probation despite Sanchez's ruling in February when he said the amount of time Peralta must serve will be up to the state probation department.

Griego said his client has a 4.0 grade-point average at the University of New Mexico, where Peralta is a biology major. He said he has "tremendous support" from his family, and he's "learned his lesson."

"The goals of probation have been met and probation should be ended," Griego said.

Assistant District Attorney Anne Keener disagreed with Griego, saying unsupervised probation wasn't what Peralta agreed to when he pleaded guilty, and that he has to learn there are consequences for his actions.

Sanchez said, "It's too early to cut him loose." He told Griego he would reconsider his motion for early release in November.

During his sentencing hearing in February, Peralta apologized to the victim and took responsibility for his actions.

"I want to apologize to (the victim and his family)," Peralta said in February. "I am deeply sorry for what happened. I take responsibility for my actions. I have learned my lesson and never will be in trouble again. This experience has humbled me and I just plan to get ready to move on with my life."

A federal civil lawsuit, filed by a parent of the victim against the Los Lunas School Board of Education in March 2011, was dismissed after a settlement was reached in December 2012.

According to Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Bernard Saiz, the family of the victim was awarded $250,000 as a result of the settlement. The district paid the settlement through the New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority.

Saiz said the settlement cost less than what it could have had the case moved forward.


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