Former Mexico band director pleads guilty to sexual contact with student
MEXICO – A former teacher pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of sexual contact with a student.
Robert Cortez, 43, is the former band director at Mexico High School. He originally pleaded not guilty, but reached an agreement and admitted he committed the crimes against a former Mexico High School student.
Missouri State Highway Patrol DNA analysis confirmed the presence of Cortez’s DNA on the student’s underwear.
According to the prosecutors, on September 26, 2017 Cortez gave a student a ride to get items for an upcoming school event and started inappropriately touching the student in the car. The student reported the incident to school officials the next morning.
“Robert Cortez broke the trust placed in him by his students, those students’ parents, and the Mexico School District, and this community will take time to heal from this betrayal,” Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger said in a press release.
The defense attorney for Cortez declined to comment.
Cortez will be sentenced on December 4 on the charges of sexual contact. He faces up to four years’ confinement in prison on each of the two counts.
Cortez, who was fired following the incident, is currently suing Mexico Public Schools for wrongful termination. In his lawsuit, Cortez argues tenured teachers in the Mexico Public School System are entitled to a hearing before termination, and the board has to prove the cause for termination.
The lawsuit is requesting the circuit judge review the decision made by the school district and whether it was adequate to support termination of his employment.
Cortez’s attorney in the lawsuit against Mexico Public Schools, David Moen, said one reason he appealed the decision the school made is because they based termination on hearsay evidence. Rather than the student testifying, a different school administrator testified for him.
“The legal reasons for the board’s termination are questionable and it could be that Cortez could prevail. The difficulty now of course is that he pleaded guilty to the conduct that was the underlying conduct alleged against him in the school board meeting,” Moen said.
The attorney representing Mexico Public Schools, Thomas Mickes, said because Cortez plead guilty, that disposes of his appeal in dismissal decisions.
“If you are arguing that the board shouldn’t have terminated, you shouldn’t have been found guilty of being involved with this student. When you plead guilty to the criminal charges based on the same set of facts, I think in my mind it would be difficult to appeal that,” Mickes said.
“The typical appeal if you will of the school district of a school board hearing such as Cortez what you are asking for is reinstatement of employment and because his guilty plea of course he cannot be reinstated to his employment,” Moen said.
“The big question is whether he still has case. In other words, can he claim he was wrongfully terminated from his employment because there wasn’t adequate evidence at the hearing when he’s plead guilty to those accusations,” Moen said.
There will be an administrative hearing on November 6.