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No one was monitoring the monitor

A former high school basketball coach is facing two charges of rape for allegedly have sex with two students, one of whom was 14 at the at the time. This was not a case of an older teenager in a romance with someone just a few years younger. The coach was 29 and 30 years old when the alleged crimes took place.

Dominick Baca, who was an assistant coach in the strong Pecos High hoops program, was charged in April 2018. Pending trial, he was placed on house arrest with a GPS monitor, but was allowed to go to and from work at a Velarde business. He wasn’t supposed to leave Santa Fe or Rio Arriba counties.

Dominick Baca, right, former assistant basketball coach at Pecos High who is charged with raping female students, sits with his attorney Tom Clark during a court hearing Tuesday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

But it turns out that, at least since November, Baca had been running around northern New Mexico, from Albuquerque to Taos to Las Vegas, having fun and being in the vicinity of a lot of children in the same age group as his alleged rape victims.

He visited an Albuquerque Hooters, went to a Santa Fe tattoo parlor and a Super Bowl party, attended the state basketball tournament in The Pit where the team he used to coach won another state championship, played in an adult league basketball tournament in Taos and a league in Las Vegas, and visited a couple of high school campuses.

He was even pictured in a Taos News photo with his team that won that charity tourney. There are obvious questions about a hoops squad using a player charged with rape who wasn’t supposed to be anywhere except his house and his job.

In May, Baca finally was arrested and charged with violating the conditions of his pre-trial release about two dozen times (but he still got out of jail on bail, after a brief visit, pending a hearing.) Last week, a judge threw him back in the slammer.

But no has yet offered an explanation of how Baca got away with running around unfettered for so long.

Yes, authorities say Baca had figured out a way to take off the GPS monitor, but that doesn’t explain everything.

For instance, on the day he went to the state tourney in Albuquerque, he’s accused of taking off the GPS device and leaving it at a Red Robin restaurant. Then he went to The Pit, where he was seen by witnesses. But he wasn’t supposed to be in Albuquerque at all.

And when he was charged with his terms-of-release violations, he was accused of being at very specific places like the tattoo parlor and the Hooters, locations all recovered from GPS monitor data.

It seems no one was monitoring the monitor.

Before he was put back in jail last week, Baca’s defense lawyer said his client had been unsupervised for months. The judge correctly decided that was no excuse for Baca to continue galivanting across a broad swath of New Mexico.

But the lawyer had a good point. What’s the point of a GPS monitor if no one is checking to see what it shows?

Someone – among prosecutors, probation officials or some part of the pre-trial system – should take responsibility for this fiasco.