Former Aztec High School teacher pleads guilty to felony sex charge
AZTEC — A former Aztec High School teacher accused of having sexual contact with one of his students changed his plea to guilty for one felony sex charge.
James Coulter, 33, plead guilty in Aztec District Court on Dec. 13 to one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor, a fourth-degree felony, under a plea agreement.
He had been facing two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, and has been incarcerated at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center since his arrest on Aug. 7, 2018.
Coulter is accused of two incidents of criminal sexual contact with a 17-year-old student in 2015, at Aztec High School and at his residence, according to The Daily Times archives.
The second count was dismissed under the plea agreement, according to Coulter's attorney, Sara Field.
During the hearing, Coulter stood next to Field and before District Court Judge Louis E. DePauli Jr.
Coulter nodded his head in agreement and verbally agreed to the terms stated in the plea agreement when it was read by DePauli at the hearing.
He also made a brief statement to the court, stating he was a teacher and the female was a student at the time the incidents took place.
Coulter was not sentenced on Dec. 13, but during the court proceeding DePauli explained that the fourth-degree felony is punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine up to $5,000 or both.
DePauli explained further that the charge requires sentencing to the state penitentiary and a parole period of less than five years and no more than 20 years.
The plea may require Coulter to register as a sex offender, he said.
Field has asked the court to allow testimony from witnesses at the sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.
San Juan County Deputy District Attorney Michael Sanchez requested that the sentencing hearing take place before Feb. 17, 2020.
Coulter remains in custody at the county adult detention center.
He is also a component of a civil lawsuit filed by Jamie Lattin, mother of slain Aztec High student Casey Jordan Marquez, against the Aztec Municipal School District.
The complaint claims negligence in the operation of the high school by the district in the sexual abuse and harassment of Lattin's daughter suffered from Coulter, according to The Daily Times archives.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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