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Judgment Day - Ex-teacher must register as sex offender

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By Martin Salazar

In the end it came down to a disgraced man crying, standing in a packed courtroom apologizing for his sins and for the hell he put his family through.

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It came down to the woman who chronicled in open court how her teacher and golf coach had seduced her beginning when she was just 14 — a freshman at Robertson High School trying to deal with her parents’ separation.

And it came down to the betrayed wife who, despite her husband’s admission that he had a sexual relationship with the student, insisted that while her husband crossed the line, it was actually the student who pursued her husband, trying to break up her marriage and that the girl was 17, not 14 when they had sex.

When all was said and done on Tuesday, Jay Quintana walked out of the second-floor San Miguel County Courtroom a convicted felon who will be on probation for three years. He will also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years, a punishment he fought vigorously to avoid.

So ended the melodrama known as the State of New Mexico vs. Clayton Jay Quintana, a case that rocked the Las Vegas City Schools district to its core and in the process divided the city.

Quintana had already pleaded guilty in June to two counts of criminal sexual penetration by school personnel, fourth-degree felonies. The agreement spelled out that Quintana would serve no prison time, leaving it up to the judge’s discretion as to whether he would have to register as a sex offender and whether the judge would grant him a conditional discharge, a deal in which criminal charges don’t go on a defendant’s record so long as he successfully completes his probation.

Quintana and his family pleaded with the court for a conditional discharge and that he not be forced to register as a sex offender while the victim in the case told the court that letting him off that easy would be a slap in her face.

A composed Quintana addressed the court toward the end of the sentencing hearing, saying that he took full responsibility for his actions and that there was no excuse for his behavior. He admitted that he had dishonored his family, his profession and his community, and he apologized to his victim’s family.

He broke down when he began addressing his family, apologizing for what the ordeal has cost each of them and thanking them for standing by him. And he acknowledged that he had hurt his wife, LeeEtte, most of all, saying he hoped to spend the rest of his life making it up to her.  

As his anguished parents looked on, Quintana then addressed Judge George Eichwald.

“Please help me to keep my record clean so that I will be able to provide for my family,” he said, adding that he is prepared to enter therapy.

“Please let me continue to prove to the court that I’m not a monster, that I’m not a psychopath and I’m not a pedophile. I made a mistake that cost me my career, great financial burden and nearly cost me my family,” he said. “I will have to pay that mistake for the rest of my life. I ask you please allow me this opportunity to put my life back together by not making me a convicted felon, by not making me register as a sex offender. My family has suffered enough, and we just want to move forward and let us heal from this horrible experience.

Violation of trust

While Defense Attorney Thomas Clark pointed to a psychologist’s report that registering as a sex offender does little if anything to rehabilitate individuals, prosecutor Robert Perozynski II countered that a suspended sentence was more than generous for Quintana, given that he had sex in his high school with a student he had known for years. As for Quintana’s statement that the case has posed a financial hardship on him and his family, Perozynski said he shouldn’t be crying that he’s poor while planning a trip to Alaska with his wife.
Eichwald told Quintana that he was a lucky man  given that his wife and family were standing by him. And the judge told him he was lucky to have been able to strike such a good deal in the criminal case.

“You’ve violated the trust of the community and abused your authority as a teacher,” Eichwald told him.

He told Quintana that he would be on supervised probation, and that he would have to retain employment and receive sex offender counseling. Quintana is also prohibited from supervising any female under 18. The judge is allowing him to attend his children’s and grandchildren’s school functions, and he is allowed to travel throughout the state for purposes of employment or to attend his children’s and grandchildren’s school events.

He told Quintana he had 10 days from the day the judgment and sentence is entered to register as a sex offender, and that failing to do so could result in a fourth-degree felony.

Family members of the victim hugged one another as the judge ordered Quintana to register as a sex offender.

Quintana was also ordered to have no contact with his victim or her family.

The judge granted Quintana’s request to be allowed to travel for a celebration of his 33rd wedding anniversary, and he allowed him to guide hunts, although Quintana isn’t allowed to have firearms.

‘Threatened to kill himself’

The three-hour sentencing hearing overflowed with raw emotion on both sides of the aisle, Quintana’s wife, daughters, parents and other family members and supporters seated on the left side of the courtroom with the victim, her husband, parents, sisters, investigators and other supporters on the opposite side.

Early in the hearing, the victim described to the court how their relationship began during a golf trip to Taos by bus in 2002 when Quintana placed his hands on her thigh. She said Quintana was her MESA adviser and golf coach and that while she was embarrassed, golf was important to her because she hoped to get a golfing scholarship and she figured she’d need a recommendation from him.

She said that in December of that same year he asked her to follow him into a storage room at the school and told her he was attracted to her and that one day they would have sex. The victim said Quintana told her he wanted to leave his wife eventually but couldn’t at that point because of his daughters.

She said that during the summer after her freshman year she took geometry, and Quintana was the only one teaching it. She said that’s when they kissed for the first time. She said she thought she was falling in love with him. Quintana told her that if she told anyone about their relationship, he would kill himself, the victim said.

She said that at the end of her sophomore year, Quintana asked if she was ready for sex. She said she told him yes because she was afraid of disappointing him. Their first time was in the floor of a storage closet at the school.

She said that during her junior year, their encounters were happening about once a week.

“I was in denial that he was using me and abusing me,” she said.

She said the relationship continued through her freshman year of college. She said that it wasn’t until March 2007 when she was 19 that she had the courage to end the relationship.

“I felt dead inside...,” she said. “I was tired and broken.”

She said she went public with what happened to her because she felt that if she didn’t he would abuse other girls.

“He stole my virginity, my sense of self...,” she said. “I’ve been through hell and back.”

‘Girl not forced’

Many attended Tuesday’s hearing to speak on Quintana’s behalf, including former colleagues and students who talked about Quintana’s dedication and how he made a difference in students’ lives.

Among the speakers were Quintana’s daughters, who said they have suffered tremendously because of the publicity surrounding the case.

LeeEtte Quintana, the defendant’s wife of 32 years and mother of his five daughters, said that since the allegations arose almost four years ago, her family has been ridiculed in public.

She said her husband didn’t force the girl into anything.

“By her own admission, she said she fell in love with my husband and she admitted to him that she wanted him to leave me,” LeeEtte Quintana said. “She was 17, not 14. She knew what  she was doing.

She was trying to steal my husband. She tried to break up our home, and when he didn’t leave his family, the last thing she said to him is, ‘If you don’t leave your wife, you will regret it.’ Our family has suffered tremendously.”

$375,000 settlement

Clark, the defense attorney, said that despite allegations and innuendo and a vigorous three-year law enforcement investigation, no other person has come forward to accuse Quintana of abuse. He said his client has surrendered both his teaching and administrator licenses and will never teach again.

Clark also brought up the $375,000 that the victim received after settling her claims against the Las Vegas City Schools district.

Quintana resigned his position after the affair was made public.

He is currently working for Benjie Regensberg, a general contractor and former state representative who spoke on Quintana’s behalf during the hearing.

“My client’s a ruined man,” Clark  said. “(The victim) received more money than most people see in a lifetime.”

Earlier in the hearing, the victim’s mother told the court that “no amount of money in this world could replace by daughter’s innocence and what she went through.”