Ruben Jesse Flores, 31, of Indio, was also ordered by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp to complete at least three years of probation upon his release from custody and to register as a sex offender for life.
Prosecutors had asked Hopp to hand down a 26-year sentence for the onetime Desert Sands Unified School District “Teacher of the Year,” who pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to eight counts of lewd acts with a child, four counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object and two counts of oral copulation with a minor.
Psychologist JoEllen Wiggington told the judge that Flores was making progress in her sex offender recovery program and argued that he would be better served by probation and treatment rather than incarceration. She noted Flores was studying law, and leading a weekly Bible study.
“I find him to be very disciplined, very open and honest, and (that he) takes responsibility for his behavior. All indications are he would be an excellent treatment candidate,” she said.
“But what about the victim?” Deputy District Attorney Molly Tucker countered during her turn to address the court. “I think the victim was as vulnerable as a victim can be, a 13-year-old student … this was her first kiss, her first boyfriend.”
The defendant, whose friends and family filled three rows in the courtroom, offered an apology when he addressed the court.
“I know it may not mean much,” he said, “but I am deeply sorry.”
After the sentence was handed down, Flores was handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies and quickly escorted out of the courtroom.
Flores was arrested on April 30, 2018, after police said the mother of the unnamed victim found “suggestive texts on her daughter’s cellphone and notified police,” according to Sgt. Daniel Marshall of the Indio Police Department.
Following Flores’ arrest, police obtained statements from both the suspect and the girl “regarding several incidents of unlawful sexual contact,” Marshall said then.
Flores’ arrest came just over a month after a security guard at Desert Ridge Academy was arrested for sending inappropriate text messages to a student.
Bermuda Dunes resident James Arthur Campbell pleaded guilty in November 2018 to a felony count of sending harmful material to a child and two misdemeanor counts of child annoyance and sending annoying or harassing phone call.
The family of the victim in the Flores case filed a civil suit against Desert Sands Unified, arguing the district should have known about the former teacher’s relationship with their child. The current status of that lawsuit was not immediately known.
—City News Service