Chris Garcia wants UNM ban lifted someday

 

Former University of New Mexico president F. Chris Garcia says he would like someday to be back on campus, with his office and computer privileges restored.

He was banned after being charged two years ago in a high-profile prostitution case, but Garcia told the Journal on Tuesday he wants “to be able to go back on campus without having to notify anybody.

“Basically like any citizen,” he said.

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He’s not sure whether he would like to teach again. Garcia taught one class per semester before being arrested.

Prosecutors are debating whether to file new charges against Garcia after the state Supreme Court upheld a ruling that derailed their case.

Garcia, who taught political science and held top administrative positions, made headlines in June 2011 when he was arrested and when a police search of his UNM office turned up numerous sex toys, pornographic videos and sex books. He would now need written approval and would have to be escorted if he was on university grounds.

Police allege Garcia was the moderator of a website that connected prostitutes to member clients. Using the name “Burque Pops,” he was accused of helping to keep law enforcement away from the highly secretive site, called Southwest Companions. He initially was charged with promoting prostitution, conspiracy and tampering with evidence, but he was never indicted.

Garcia has emeritus status, which is given to professors who retire in good standing and meet certain requirements. But he was stripped of the accompanying privileges, such as maintaining a campus office, computer privileges and an email account, after his arrest.

In June 2012, a year after the arrest, a state district court judge ruled the website did not amount to a “house of prostitution or a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed.” The state Supreme Court upheld the judge’s ruling last week.

Garcia’s attorney, Robert Gorence, maintains his client took no part in any criminal activity, adding that Garcia never profited financially from the website or controlled the activities of women involved in it. He has called the police investigation flawed and said Garcia’s reputation “was thoroughly sullied,” according to past news stories.

Garcia, who had worked for the university for nearly four decades before retiring, says he earned his emeritus status privileges. They were revoked pending the outcome of the police investigation, but he said he is not sure when he will ask UNM to restore them.

Garcia quashed rumors that he had asked the university to go back to teaching. “I don’t plan to anytime in the near future,” he said. UNM officials confirmed he had not been in contact with them.

“Well, I just want to see what happens in the future. I have no plans at this point,” Garcia said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say the case is not over. Mark Drebing, chief deputy district attorney in the 2nd Judicial District, told the Journal last week that prosecutors would meet to evaluate their options. He said Garcia could still face other charges such as conspiracy to promote prostitution.

Gorence responded: “I don’t think they remotely could go forward.”

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