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Former Bloomfield teacher accused of groping student

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A former teacher at Bloomfield High School was accused last week of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old student at the school.

Benjamin Griffith, 37, was charged Dec. 3 in Aztec Magistrate Court with two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, a second-degree felony.

School officials told police that Griffith was placed on administrative leave as soon as the allegations surfaced.

Debbi Serrano, human resources director at Bloomfield School District, said Wednesday that Griffith was no longer employed by the district.

She said Griffith was an English teacher who joined the district in 2013.

Griffith, who was being held at San Juan County Adult Detention Center on a $50,000 cash-only bond, is expected to appear at a preliminary examination hearing today.

According to the arrest warrant, the student first told a substitute teacher that Griffith had touched her on Oct. 15.

She told school officials, and later a Bloomfield police detective, that she was listening to music in the English computer lab when Griffith came over and started jokingly typing on her keyboard.

Griffith took one of the girl's earbuds and dropped it down the front of her shirt, according to the warrant. She pulled it out and then he told her to give him her phone.

She refused, and he wrestled for it, touching her breast, the warrant states. The student told detectives he then tickled her and put his finger down her shirt.

He then asked her whether her bra was polka-dotted and asked to see it several times, according to the warrant.

The girl also accused the man of whispering to her that he would pinch her breast, the warrant states.

She finally left the lab and later told a friend what happened, the warrant states. The friend urged her to tell somebody, and she reported it to a substitute teacher, according to the warrant.

Griffith's pastor and a friend from church told police that Griffith had confessed to them that he touched the girl, the warrant states.

Griffith could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on both counts.

Griffith is being represented by Scott Johnson of the New Mexico Office of the Public Defender. Johnson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.