Ex-teacher pleads guilty to groping student

Steve Garrison
Benjamin Griffith

FARMINGTON — Former Bloomfield High School English teacher Benjamin Griffith pleaded guilty Monday to one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor.

Griffith, 38, was charged in December 2014 with two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor on allegations he touched the breasts of a 17-year-old student at the high school on Oct. 15, 2014, according to Daily Times archives.

Griffith's attorney, Tyson Quail, did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Griffith allegedly touched the girl's breasts while playfully wrestling with her in the computer lab, archives state. He then put his finger down her shirt and asked to see her bra, according to the archives.

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

A school official told The Daily Times in December 2014 Griffith was no longer employed by the district. He was hired by the district as an English teacher in 2013.

Griffith faces up to 1 1/2 years in prison for his fourth-degree felony conviction.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said Tuesday the state will likely request prison time for Griffith.

He said Griffith is eligible for a conditional discharge, which would allow him to avoid a felony conviction on his criminal record if he successfully completes a term of probation.

O'Brien said his office would oppose a conditional discharge and will request that Griffith be ordered to register as a sex offender.

"If the court were to grant him a condition discharge, he would not need to register," O'Brien.

O'Brien said a lifetime sex offender registration is the best method to prevent Griffith from teaching in the future.

USA Today Network investigation in February revealed that a patchwork system of laws and regulations, as well as flawed information sharing between states and school districts, sometimes allowed teachers with histories of misconduct to continue teaching.

New Mexico was faulted in the investigation for failing to share information online about teacher disciplinary actions and for failing to communicate with other states regarding teacher misconduct.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.