After a two-day trial, a jury found a former Dexter coach not guilty Wednesday on three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in the third degree (a person in a position of power).
The jury returned with a verdict of not guilty on all charges in the case against Antonio Regalado after less than two hours of deliberation.
Regalado’s parents, brothers and niece were present throughout the trial, and some cried when the verdict was read.
Charges against Regalado, a Dexter native and longtime coach at Dexter Middle and High schools, stemmed from what prosecutors alleged were three incidents between January 2014 and November 2016.
In all, nine witnesses took the stand, including Regalado and the victim. Among those called to testify were Dave Campbell, athletic director with Dexter Consolidated Schools; Dexter Superintendent of Schools Lisa Dodd; a detective with the New Mexico State Police and four of the victim’s teammates.
The victim, under questioning by the prosecution, said Regalado touched her sometime between January and May 2014 while the two were alone in a press box keeping score during a softball game in Dexter. She said Regalado touched her on the buttocks.
The victim said a second incident happened between October 2014 and March 2015 when Regalado was alleged to have placed his hand on her thigh and private parts while the two shared a seat on a bus coming back from a game in Eunice.
She said that in 2016, he slapped her on the buttocks while in the locker room during a game in Tuscaloosa — something other girls on the team had witnessed.
The victim later said in her testimony she and the other girls sent Regalado a text message saying she and the other girls were troubled by the incident in the locker room and asked Regalado to stop.
He then texted the victim back saying, “Will do.”
A friend then later went to the president of the Dexter School Board in August 2017 and told the board’s president about the incident.
Jonathan Michael Thomas, with the Chaves County District Attorney’s office, in his closing argument said Regalado received sexual gratification from his actions and used his position of authority as a coach to coerce her into submitting to sexual conduct and not inform anybody about it.
“The whole crime here is that he is committing the crime under the umbrella of being a coach,” Thomas said to the jury.
Regalado, in his testimony, admitted he had slapped the victim on the buttocks while in the locker room in Tuscaloosa, but maintained it was not done with sexual intent but in a high energy moment after winning a game. He said the move was one the girls often did to each other, but admits that in retrospect, it was wrong and inappropriate.
Regalado denied the other two incidents had taken place.
Though he admitted to often telling the victim she had a big butt and sent her text messages despite school policy that prohibited doing so, he said that he never sent text messages that expressed sexual feelings for the victim.
In her testimony, the victim said Regalado would tell her she was his favorite athlete, second only to his own niece. She added that he had favorite athletes who he would challenge more but also on occasion buy snacks.
The victim said she first met Regalado before middle school and he was a prominent figure in the community. He began to coach her in volleyball during her eighth-grade year and continued to do so up through high school.
She said that when she was in eighth grade, Regalado would start to tell her she had a “big butt” or “bomb booty.”
“I found it weird, I didn’t know what to say or do,” she said.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Doug Jones Witt said that there were discrepancies in the testimony of the victim and her three teammates who testified, related to what grade the victim was in at the time of the first incident.
He also noted that if Regalado had done something, the girls would have had ample opportunity to have reported it anonymously in an end-of-year survey that student-athletes fill out evaluating their coaches.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.