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Witness: Principal rejected account that ex-teacher molested her repeatedly

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Nallely Hernandez said she went to her principal to report that her teacher, Gary Gregor, was touching her inappropriately.

But instead of conducting an investigation or calling police, principal Ruby Montoya went to Hernandez’s fourth-grade class at Fairview Elementary in Española and told the students to stop spreading lies about Gregor.

Hernandez, now 21, testified Tuesday at the first of a projected four trials for Gregor, 62, on charges of sexual crimes against young girls he was teaching in Santa Fe and Española.

He faces a total of 13 counts, including criminal sexual penetration of a minor, criminal sexual contact of a minor, and kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual offense, in the trial that began in Santa Fe District Court on Tuesday.

The Journal typically doesn’t publish the names of alleged sexual assault victims, but Hernandez said she did not mind.

Hernandez said that as a young girl, she didn’t tell principal Montoya that Gregor touched her private parts, just that he touched her on the leg.

But she added that she went to the principal with some friends to improve her credibility, because Gregor had previously told her that no one would believe her.

“She did come to our classroom to tell us to stop making false accusations because we could get people in trouble,” Hernandez said. “He (Gregor) was right. No one was going to believe me.”

Accounts in prior litigation involving Gregor indicate that no one from Española schools ever went to police about the accusations against the teacher.

Although civil lawsuits over Gregor’s behavior have resulted in millions in payouts, he was never charged criminally until Attorney General Hector Balderas did so last year amid national media attention on so-called “passing the trash” of sex offender teachers from school district to school district without accountability.

Gregor first faced accusations while teaching at Santa Fe Public Schools, but the district let him go with a “neutral” recommendation, and he was then hired in Española.

Hernandez is one of two alleged victims in the case now at trial. She said the touching by Gregor started a few days after the school year started in 2007 and progressively got worse.

She was elected class president and would sit next to Gregor, along with the other girls who were elected to the class council.

“He would get really comfortable next to me,” Hernandez said. “He would touch my leg, and he would progress as he got more comfortable about it.”

She said Gregor started by putting his hand on her knee, then he started touching and rubbing her thighs. He then started putting his hand inside her skirt and inside her underwear and would rub her for minutes at a time.

Hernandez said she started wearing pants with a belt and didn’t want to wear anything that was “too tempting.” But that didn’t stop him, she said, and he would still force his hand into her underwear. These kinds of assaults would happen on a daily basis, she said.

There were also times he kept her in class after everyone else had left, closed the blinds and turned off the lights in the classroom and tried to kiss her in the classroom closet.

“I could feel his breath on my ear,” Hernandez said. “It was useless for me to try to fight.” She doesn’t remember kissing the first time in the closet, but another time, she said, he put his lips on hers.

Gregor kept his distance for a while after Hernandez went to the school principal, but Hernandez said it didn’t take long for him to start again and get more aggressive with his touching.

“I was surprised that it happened so soon after,” Hernandez said. “I could feel his anger.”

On top of physical abuse, Gregor would frequently tell Hernandez that he loved her and requested that she write him notes telling him how much she loved him. Some of those notes were shown in court Tuesday.

Gregor would also shower her with gifts such as teddy bears and an art set, and he bought her a cellphone and called it every day. She said that while speaking on the phone, Gregor would ask what she was wearing.

Hernandez and her two sisters went to Gregor’s house for a sleepover – her sisters went with her for “protection,” she said – and one of the rooms in the house made her uneasy.

“There was a bedroom that was set up for a girl, and not a baby girl,” Hernandez said. The room had toys and art sets, but no crib or anything else that gave the impression that Gregor and his wife were expecting a child.

She said Gregor wanted her to sleep with him, but she slept with her sisters, saying that they were scared to sleep by themselves.

Two civil lawsuits that accused Gregor of sexually abusing Española students have been settled by the school district for $9.2 million. A third suit concerning allegations from when he taught earlier in Santa Fe is pending.

Montoya, the former Española principal, is on the state’s witness list and may be called to testify during the trial, which is expected to conclude next week.

According to the civil lawsuits, Montoya and her husband were good friends with Gregor.