Judge sets sentencing date for convicted child molester, declines to hear motion for new trial

Aaron Dean Chavez

A state District Court judge on Wednesday declined to hear a motion seeking a new trial for a former Catholic school art teacher convicted last year of molesting of a young student.

Instead, Judge T. Glenn Ellington scheduled a sentencing date later this month for 51-year-old Aaron Dean Chavez.

Chavez’s attorneys argued in the motion there had been juror misconduct during the man’s trial in October, when he was found guilty on one count of criminal sexual contact of a child and jurors deadlocked on two separate counts involving two other girls who had accused him of touching them inappropriately during class at Santo Niño Regional Catholic School.

But Ellington said he had no jurisdiction over the issue, calling it a matter for the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

Assistant District Attorney Larissa Breen, the prosecutor in the case, said in an interview after the hearing that her office intends to retry Chavez on the other two counts and is considering a new charge against him related to allegations by a fourth girl.

Chavez was convicted on a charge involving a 6-year-old girl who had accused him of inappropriately touching her while tucking in her shirt in a first grade classroom in 2016. Chavez, who testified in his own defense, admitted he had tucked in the girl’s shirt but said he action was “not sexual.”

Ellington set a sentencing hearing on Aug. 29.

Chavez’s attorney, John Samore, insisted after Wednesday’s hearing that his client, who has been in jail since the verdict, is innocent. He said Chavez is facing between three and 15 years in prison on the one count.

“He’s looking at 15 years for tucking in a child’s shirt in class,” Samore said. “We were shocked and very disappointed at the verdict.”

Samore said the motion seeking a new trial likely will be filed in the appeals court.