Miguel Arango -- the DISD teacher accused of inappropriately touching a 6-year-old student at Julian T. Saldivar Elementary School near Love Field in October -- will remain in the Lew Sterrett Justice Center and under the authority of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the forseeable future. After listening to three hours of testimony -- from Arango's defense attorney in his criminal case, from a DISD administrative investigator accused of forcing Arango to resign and from Arango himself -- U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer said this afternoon he would not rule on Arango's request to be released from jail and put back on the district's payroll. Arango's attorney Julie Heath filed such a request on December 6 because without his teaching job, Arango's H-1B visa, which allows him to stay in the United States as a teacher, is no longer valid, and he is facing deportation back to his native Colombia.
Buchmeyer did not say when he would render his opinion, only that he was interested in the outcome of the criminal case against Arango, who was accused on October 4 of sexual conduct with a first-grader at Saldivar. That case is set for trial in mid-March of next year. Heath was hoping for a ruling today. "It's Christmas," she said after the hearing. "I'd like to get him out."
During his court appearance, the thin, dark-haired Arango appeared gaunt and haggard. He wore khaki shorts and a short-sleeved blue button-down shirt, and throughout the testimony he kept wringing his hands and rubbing his eyes. Since he was first informed of the allegations against him in early October, Arango has maintained his innocence; he did so again today. So too did defense attorney Richard Carrizales, who was hired October 8 to represent Arango after he was arrested on the charge of indecency with a child. Carrizales said in court today that he interviewed on video 13 children in Arango's class (while their parents and an English-language translator were present), had his client take a lie-detector test and had him interviewed by a sexual predator expert -- and that all of them said Arango did not commit and could not have committed the act for which he's accused. Nonetheless, on November 13, a Dallas County grand jury indicted Arango.
"My expectation was he would be no-billed by the grand jury," Carrizales said. "Based on my investigation, the evidence of his innocence was overwhelming."
Carrizales also told Unfair Park this afternoon he doesn't think the grand jury even looked at the evidence he gathered, which amounted to 57 pages and a DVD. He also says the 6-year-old girl who made the allegations -- which involve Arango's allegedly pulling up her dress and touching her vagina while he was at his desk and in front of the entire class -- has at various times altered her version of events. She also made the complaint about an hour after Arango had disciplined the girl and another student for acting up in class.
This federal case, which is separate from the criminal case against the teacher, involves Arango's allegations that DISD administrative investigator Dana Davis, a former police officer in Southlake, cajoled Arango into resigning from the district in early October -- during an interview at ICE facilities on Stemmons Freeway, where Carrizales says he was not allowed to meet with his client by ICE special agents. Arango alleges that Davis threatened him with evidence -- a video tape and DNA evidence -- Davis knew didn't exist.
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"I was scared because I thought they were setting me up," Arango said today. That, he says, is why he signed the resignation form Davis brought with her, and why he wrote the phrases "I am not under duress" and "In lieu of due process" on the form -- because she told him to. In a thick accent, Arango said he did not know what either of those things meant when he wrote them. He also said he asked for his attorney, Carrizales, who was not allowed to see him.
Davis said she did not threaten or coerce Arango -- though she did say she did not tell him what his rights were. Heath asked: Why not? "He didn't ask," said Davis. She also said that despite her title as investigator, she didn't interview anyone involved in Arango's case except Arango -- and that interview lasted only 20 minutes, some of which was spent filling out the resignation form she brought with her.
During the hearing, Heath brought up the fact there have been similar allegations made against Davis in the past. She acknowledged there is at least one other teacher who claims Davis forced her to resign, rather than inform her that the other option would involve a hearing before the district's board of trustees. Davis, however, said Arango wanted to resign so he could "go back home to Colombia." He says he told her no such thing.
Eric Moye, who is representing the DISD and Davis, told Buchmeyer that there was no way he could release Arango, who Moye kept referring to as an "indicted pedophile" and a man accused of commiting "the most heinous crime there is." He told the judge during closing statements that putting Arango back on the payroll, even if he were to remain on leave, just to get his visa in order would be "nothing short of an obscenity." Arango will remain in Dallas County Jail past Christmas and likely into the new year, maintaining he did nothing wrong. --Robert Wilonsky