While a local high school counselor has been charged for not immediately reporting an incident involving a teacher allegedly participating in sexual misconduct with a student, court records show the principal knew first.
Amphitheater High School counselor Katia Garcia-Huerta has been charged with one count of child abuse for not immediately reporting the alleged incident to police. Huerta has pleaded not guilty to the charge, where it is alleged she did not immediately provide a copy of a letter written by the 16-year-old victim to police.
Former Amphitheater High School band director David Rogers has been charged with one count of child molestation.
Police became suspicious when Huerta admitted she was romantically involved with Rogers.
Huerta allegedly received the letter on Oct. 31 from the student about the incident between her and Rogers. However, Huerta’s lawyer, John Kaufmann, feels his client is being treated unfairly by the Amphitheater School District and Pima County Attorneys Office because the school’s principal, Jon Lansa, found out about the alleged incident several days before Huerta.
According to court records, Lansa found out on Oct. 28, while Huerta first questioned the student on Oct. 31. By her own admission, Huerta questioned the student on Oct. 31 where the student denied anything had happened. However, later that day, the student gave Huerta a hand-written letter where she admitted “something happened.”
Huerta told police she told Lansa about the rumors and allegations against Rogers, and he responded by saying he was already checking into the matter.
According to a timeline Lansa gave to police, he first found out from the alleged victim’s older sister on Oct. 26, but didn’t call the police until Oct. 28.
According to Arizona Revised Statute 13-3620(a)(4), “Any person who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of physical injury, abuse, child abuse, a reportable offense or neglect that appears to have been inflicted on the minor by other than accidental means or that is not explained by the available medical history shall immediately report it to a peace officer or to Child Protective Services in the Department of Economic Security.”
Those required to report suspected abuse under the law include any physician, counselor or social worker, who develops the reasonable belief in the course of treating a patient, and any school personnel or domestic violence victim advocate.
When asked if he felt Lansa should be penalized for not immediately contacting the authorities, Kaufmann said, “That’s a damn good question. Why are they targeting a woman rather than a man who knew about it days before saying a word? Why is he something special?”
Todd Jaeger, a spokesman for the Amphitheater School District, Lansa and the Pima County Attorneys Office did not immediately respond to The Explorer’s request for comment.
On March 12, Kaufmann filed a motion to remand/new determination of probable cause, bringing into question the Feb. 2 grand jury indictment where Huerta was officially charged with child abuse.
Kauffman asserts that the Pima County Attorney’s Office, and the investigating officer purposely left out information that the principal knew before Huerta during the proceedings. A conference is scheduled in Pima County Superior Court on April 19 at 1:30 p.m.
In response to the motion, the Pima County Attorney’s Office said, “The defendant seeks a re-determination of probable cause, claiming that she was denied a substantial procedural right when Detective Dallas Wilson failed to present evidence of the Grand Jury fairly and impartially. The defendant’s motion is in error, however, and should be denied.
“Defendant admitted being in a relationship with the band director, telling Det. Wilson that the two of them had been seeing each other for three years. Defendant denies any conduct occurred between the victim and the band director. Such information is not clearly exculpatory, however, and the State is not obliged to present such denials to the Grand Jury.”
Huerta quickly became a target in the investigation after the lead detective found out she was intimately involved with Rogers. While the victim claims she was with Rogers on Oct. 22, Huerta said she was, and has dinner and dessert receipts to prove it.
Nonetheless, police questioned Huerta because it took her more than 24 hours to turn over the letter written by the victim.
In questioning Huerta on Nov. 2 at the Tucson Police Department, Wilson said he is suspicious of her intentions because it appears she is trying to protect Rogers by not calling police and giving them the letter the student wrote immediately after she got it.
“But, what is your duty as a counselor when a student comes to you and says they’re having a …I mean, let’s call it what it is, an inappropriate, at best, relationship with a teacher. Are you not mandated to report that to the authorities?”
In response to the question, Huerta said, “Yes, but I knew that Mr. Lansa already had reported it to the police and that there was on ongoing investigation because I talked to Mr. Lansa on Friday.”
When asked why there was a delay in delivering the letter, Huerta said she had planned to share it with the police when they talked to her, and because the student had asked her to hold it.
In the letter the 16-year-old female student said, “Anyway, something happened,” in describing the details of both of the alleged visits to Rogers’ home.
By his own account, Lansa reported the incident to the Tucson Police Department on Oct. 28 after he conducted his own investigation into the accusations for several days.
Lansa was alerted to the possible allegations on Oct. 26, when the victim’s older sister contacted the principal, stating Rogers had been having conversations with the 16-year-old student through Facebook.
On Oct. 28, Lansa received copies of the alleged messages between Rogers and the student, where Rogers said he wished she had a car so she could come to his house, and called her gorgeous and smart throughout the conversation.
On Oct. 28, Lansa apparently interviewed the student’s ex-boyfriend, where he was told Rogers allegedly started giving the female student rides home after evening band practice. Soon after discussions with the ex-boyfriend, Lansa then talked to the student who initially denied having been to Rogers’ house.
Lansa went on to interview the student’s family members, and by the end of Oct. 28, he placed Rogers on administrative leave at 3:35 p.m. Lansa then called to report the alleged incident to police around 4:30 p.m. that day.
Tucson Police came to the school on Oct. 31, conducting interviews with Lansa and Huerta and the student on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.
It was during the interview with the alleged victim that the detective and Lansa found out about the letter. After Lansa asked for it, Huerta turned it over the following day.
Kauffmann, Huerta’s attorney, is arguing that if Huerta is going to be charged with a crime, when she was told that Lansa had already called police, and that he was handling the matter, is unfair.
Rogers has also pleaded not guilty. He has since resigned from the Amphitheater School District.
Rogers’ attorney has also filed a motion in Pima County Superior Court to remand the county attorney’s office for leaving out information during the Grand Jury indictment hearing.
Like Huerta, Rogers’ attorney contends that vital information was left out.