Former Santa Rosa teacher to face another charge

Former Santa Rosa ISD coach Isaac Ruben Flores made a brief appearance in court in Brownsville on Wednesday.

Flores, 25, was indicted in May 2019 on one count of improper relationship between an educator and a student, two counts of sexual assault of a child, and four counts of delivery of a controlled substance or marijuana in three separate cases related to his relationship with a 16-year-old female student.

In an affidavit filed by investigators in the case, a 16-year-old student testified she and Flores had sex twice at his home in November or December 2018 to early 2019. She and Flores smoked marijuana with three other girls, including a student who testified that she had a relationship with Flores’ colleague Josue Cepeda, according to the affidavit.

On Wednesday, Judge Gloria Rincones, of the 444th state District Court, reset the case to hear motions on March 5.

Melanie Palomo-Zamora, assistant district attorney for the Cameron County Child Abuse Unit, told the court that the state intends to indict Flores on another charge.

Flores’ attorney Carlos Quintana responded saying that if that’s the case, there will need to be more time for discovery. Currently, Flores’ case file lists trial set for March 23.

The former coach remained out on bond, set at $25,000 on each count following a hearing on a motion for bond reduction in August.

Cepeda, on the other hand, was ordered back into custody last month by 103 state District Court Judge Janet Leal after tracking on a GPS ankle monitor showed multiple violations of his bond agreement, authorities said.

Flores’ colleague Cepeda, 36, was also indicted in May. Prosecutors charged the former criminal justice teacher, basketball and football coach on one count of improper relationship between an educator and a student and six counts of sexual assault of a child for a relationship he pursued with another minor female student.

A Title IX lawsuit filed on behalf of one of the victims and her father sued Cepeda and Flores at the federal level alongside the Santa Rosa Independent School District, former Santa Rosa ISD superintendent Heriberto Villarreal, and former Santa Rosa HS principal Jaime Garcia.

The complaint, filed in January, alleged that school district officials including a counselor, teachers, and former principal Jaime Garcia were aware of the incidents and chose not to investigate.

In February of last year, interim Superintendent Yolanda Chapa told investigators she had suspended Flores and Cepeda, according to the lawsuit.

A May 2019 statement from Cameron County District Attorney’s office confirmed that allegations of inappropriate relationships with students were first reported to school district officials in May 2018, but no action was taken by Santa Rosa ISD officials at the time.

“In Feb. 2019, HSI Child Exploitation Task Fore agents received phone tips regarding the same alleged relationships. This prompted the beginning of a joint, and lengthy investigation between the agencies that resulted in several charges against the men,” the statement read.

In June, the Valley Morning Star reported that Santa Rosa ISD Superintendent Angela Gonzalez alleged in a complaint that board President Raul Garza, Vice President Arnulfo Castañeda, and Secretary Cynthia Saldivar retaliated against her for trying to report the incidents in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act.

“On the first day, I learned that there was an ongoing investigation by local law enforcement over alleged inappropriate relationships between certain coaches and students as well as other related misconduct,” she stated in a complaint.

Gonzalez went on to claim that known allegations and some underlying proof had not been properly reported to agencies including the Texas Education Agency, the State Board for Education Certification, and Child Protective Services.

According to the report, she was reprimanded by board members at a meeting on May 17 before Garza, Castañeda, and Saldaña attempted to vote to investigate her before being outvoted.

“I am reasonably concerned that I may be placed on administrative leave or otherwise isolated or prevented from doing my job as superintendent…” she wrote in the complaint.

Flores and Cepeda were charged based upon two affidavits in which the minor students prosecutors say they slept with testified to investigators. In Flores’ case, the girl told authorities she met the coach in eighth grade.

The girl testified she had sex with Flores twice at his home. “She told investigators she didn’t remember much because she was ‘really high,’” the affidavit stated.

The document stated that the second time, “she did not want to have sex but she said yes because she was alone and she could not leave.”

Flores and a 20-year-old Santa Rosa High School graduate smoked marijuana and drank alcohol with the girls, according to her testimony.

In another affidavit, a student told investigators she became “close” to Cepeda, who was her criminal justice teacher. In late January 2019 she said she became “serious or intimate” with Cepeda, with whom she had sex five times between January to March, often at the Texas Inn in La Feria, according to authorities.