School insurer aims to avoid covering costs of civil action against Coach Pecos

June 9 – The agency that insures New Mexico’s public schools hopes to avoid paying costs associated with a lawsuit against a former Pecos High School basketball assistant coach who admitted to using social media to obtain photos and sexually explicit videos of young girls.

Joshua Rico pleaded guilty earlier this year in US District Court to five counts of coercing and inducing minors to engage in illegal sexual activity. Prosecutors had alleged he used text messages and Snapchat messages – some sent under fictitious names – to convince girls as young as 14 to engage in sex acts or send him sexually explicit photos between 2016 and 2020.

He is due to be sentenced next month in the criminal case, but he is also the defendant in a civil complaint filed by one of the victims, identified only as ‘Jane Doe’.

The New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority has paid its legal fees in the case, but is asking a state court to declare that it has no obligation to continue doing so and that She is not responsible for payment of any settlement or jury award that may result from the case.

Rico is not considered an employee of the school under the state’s tort claims law, according to a complaint the insurance authority filed Wednesday in state district court, and did not “act within the scope of his duties” when he engaged in actions in which the lawsuit alleges he violated the girl’s equal protection and due process rights.

Rico’s attorney in the civil case did not respond to a call seeking comment on Friday.

Linda Hemphill, an attorney for the plaintiff, said on Friday that she had not seen the agency’s complaint but found it “shocking” that the insurer was trying to avoid covering Rico, “given that they have already paid settlements related to others accused of sexual misconduct with students, including Gary Gregor, Dominick Baca and Vernon Trujillo.”

Gregor, Baca and Trujillo are all former public school employees charged with sexual misconduct in cases that resulted in payments to plaintiffs in civil cases. Gregor and Baca were also found guilty of criminal offences.

Rico’s case is different, Insurance Authority General Counsel Marty Esquivel said, in part because the lawsuit he faces centers on actions that occurred primarily at his home in his spare time, and not at school.

“This conduct was completely outside the course and scope of Rico’s job, and that’s the difference,” Esquivel said.

Rico is the third Pecos basketball coach charged with sex crimes in the past five years.

In 2018, former Pecos Middle School coach Apolonio Blea was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl, Mora, among other related crimes.

The case was dismissed in January 2019 pending further investigation and has not been reclassified, according to court documents.

In 2019, former Pecos High School coach Dominick Baca pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal sexual penetration and one count of criminal sexual contact with a minor. Baca was sentenced to three years in prison in 2020.

Pecos School Board, former Pecos Independent School District superintendent Fred Trujillo, former Pecos Middle School principal and district athletic director Michael Lister are also named as defendants in the lawsuit against Rico. , who says the district has a history of not properly investigating allegations. sexual abuse of students, failure to take action against sexual predators, failure to train employees to recognize and prevent sexual abuse, and retaliation against those who report sexual misconduct.

Esquivel said Friday it would be up to a judge to apportion blame in the case.

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