Outspoken Santa Fe teacher and activist Sergio Israel Muterperl, now free on bail, says he’s innocent of molestation charges, and that the case against him is weak. He doesn’t think he was set up, but he does wonder if the powers that be saw the charges as an opportunity to try to make him go away.
By Tom O’Connell
SANTA FE, N.M., July 10, 2016 – Sergio Israel Muterperl is relieved to be out of jail and back home with his girlfriend and her daughter, and is confident the molestation case against him is “falling apart.”
While he doesn’t think anyone conspired to bring two child molestation charges against him, the outspoken Santa Fe teacher and activist suspects the charges may have been used opportunistically by people in power to remove a thorn from the side of the school district.
“I think they saw opportunity and took it, and then jumped the gun,” said Muterperl. “I don’t think the school planted any of this, but I think once it started, it put things in motion for them to start working harder to get me out.”
Muterperl sat down with Burque Media at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe on June 29 in his first interview since he left jail on June 16, after a two-night stay behind bars.
In June, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Muterperl stemming from an investigation of the claims by two girls, seven and nine, that he touched them inappropriately. Both were students at Atalaya Elementary School, where Muterperl was a teacher’s aide.
The 7-year-old claimed three months before that Muterperl, 29, had physical contact with her at the school, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, which took its information from a police criminal complaint. Muterperl was placed on paid leave, and then two months later, the 9-year-old claimed he assaulted her as well.
The accusations didn’t sit well with Muterperl’s many supporters, who rallied around him.
“Basically he said he was being kind of railroaded,” Jeff Au Green, an activist and former Santa Fe special-education teacher, said of a conversation he had with Muterperl in April. Muterperl also denied any inappropriate contact occurred.
‘We Don’t Like What You’re Doing’—Meeting With Superintendent Boyd, 2015
Muterperl is a longtime activist who worked on the “Impeach Martinez” protests in January, which made the front page of the New Mexican. He’s also been extremely vocal against excessive testing. A photo of him being dragged out of the May Trump rally in Albuquerque was splashed all over social media.
He knew he had run afoul of his school bosses last year when he was called into a meeting with Santa Fe School Board Superintendent Joseph Boyd and his principal. The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to put him on notice that his bosses were uncomfortable with him being so vocal at board meetings. (Muterperl started to record the meeting, but the head of HR, Elias Bernardino, demanded he stop, despite it being a right under the one-party consent law in New Mexico.)
At one such meeting in 2015, he said, Superintendent Boyd was extolling the virtues of PARCC testing, and said he’d take the test himself. That’s when Muterperl called out, “Do it!” The meeting with Boyd and his principal was called two weeks later.
“They basically told me without telling me that you have this great reputation and you don’t want the things you’re doing to spoil that reputation,” said Muterperl.
What they were essentially telling him, he claimed, is this: “We don’t like what you’re doing, and can you just stop?”
They cited rules of conduct about blurting out things at board meetings, and even accused him of threatening his principal and the board members, which he said is ridiculous.
“I told them I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because it’s right and legal,” said Muterperl. “I’m aggressive in my tactics, and that’s something the board looks down at.”
It was announced last week that Boyd will be leaving Santa Fe Public Schools to take an education position in the private sector.
The ‘Interrogation’—June 14
When Muterperl submitted himself for booking on June 14, he was placed in an interrogation room. They gave him water, and then he waited in a freezing room for 40 minutes. And then the lead detective on his case, Jessica Sanchez, and another detective came into the room.
The encounter that followed resembled nothing like the interrogations Muterperl has seen on TV or in real life, he said.
First, Sanchez read Muterperl his rights.
“And then she just stares at me, she looks at the detective, looks back at me, and says, ‘Are you good?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And that was it. And she says, ‘OK, we’re going to get transport.’ She didn’t ask me any questions. I was baffled.”
Anonymous Voicemail: Detective Jessica Sanchez ‘Influenced by a Powerful Person’
Last month after my first story on Muterperl ran, I received an anonymous voicemail from a man claiming Detective Sanchez is taking instructions from above on how to handle the case.
“I don’t want to lose my job, so I’m calling anonymously, and just wanted to let you know the detective involved, Jessica Sanchez, is being influenced by a powerful person,” said the caller. “If he’s arrested and goes to trial, I’ll have to reevaluate whether I want to stay anonymous or not. Hopefully someone will start looking into the detective and her motives.”
The caller never called back, and we have been unable to confirm his claims.
Refuting the Charges
Muterperl will learn within 60 days if a grand jury will be convened to hear the case against him. He’s also waiting to hear if the school district will hold a hearing to determine if he gets to keep his job.
He’s confident, though, that the case is crumbling.
At a public hearing that was held June 29 before our interview at La Fonda, it was revealed that during an interview with an investigator, one of the accusers said her mother had told her that Muterperl touched her.
“She never said she made her say it or anything, but she said those words,” said Muterperl. “There also was evidence that was left out of the warrant affidavit that, if it were in there, the warrant never would have happened. Part of the story one of the girls told was a complete lie in the discovery, which was all stated today.”
That hearing set his mind a little more at ease about his case.
“There’s a lot of evidence that came out today that makes it look [to be] falling apart on their end,” he said.
Accuser’s Parents Arrested
After receiving a tip from friends, Muterperl decided to do a simple online search, and discovered that both parents of the former student who accused him had been arrested for child endangerment the day before he went to jail. He said that after working with this girl for two years, he suspected something bad was going on at her home but never had the evidence to prove it.
“These are all things the media doesn’t say, but they’re telltale signs of what we knew was happening,” he said. “I was very aware, being in a special-ed class for four years, working with this one girl for almost two years, I had a good sense of who she was and stuff like that. When you work with kids long enough, you learn why they act out.”
‘Target on My Back’
This whole situation doesn’t totally surprise Muterperl or his girlfriend, who he said has been worried about him over the past year because his activism seemed to have put “a target on my back for everything I do, and at this point, it’s obvious that I kind of do.”
He also wonders if his social media activities had anything to do with the cops’ decision to go after him hard.
“I had those pictures on my Facebook of like ‘Jail Killer Cops’ and ‘End Police Brutality’ and all that stuff, so we’re almost sure that if that wasn’t in existence, that maybe this wouldn’t have gone so far…. Whether you can prove it or not, I think they may have a little chip on their shoulder about me, and they’re looking past what the reality is and are trying to really get me. That’s how it feels.”