December 28, 2015

Top Stories of 2015: Number 3; APS scandal

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Mugshot of Jason Martinez from 2013.

After finding out the Albuquerque Public School’s deputy superintendent never completed a background check in his short two months on the job, I decided to perform one of my own.

The deputy, Jason Martinez, left APS abruptly after being in the headlines for clashing over a contract with the school district’s Chief Financial Officer Don Moya. Martinez wanted to award a contract to a vendor where his friend worked. Moya opposed the idea because Martinez’ old friend had been implicated in a kickback scheme at Denver Public Schools.

We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is.

Previous: Stories 10-6. Number 5. Number 4.

Mugshot of Jason Martinez from 2013.

Mugshot of Jason Martinez from 2013.

Martinez’ official explanation for his August resignation cited family and personal issues. I figured there had to a bigger reason, and I didn’t think it had to do with his contract dispute with Moya.

So why didn’t he complete a required background check?

Assuming that he was hiding a criminal record, I started frantically searching Martinez name on the internet with words like “arrest,” “arrested” and “jail.” I searched exclusively in Colorado and Denver, where Martinez lived before coming to Albuquerque in June.

I also noticed something else. Martinez had recently deleted his LinkedIn account, which I luckily took screenshot photos of and still had access to. He used the name “T Jason Martinez” in his now-deleted profile.

After searching many variations of “T Jason Martinez” and words like “arrest,” “jail” and “Denver,” I came across an arrest record of a Timothy Jason Martinez from July 2013 in Denver posted on Mugshots.com. The charge for his arrest listed “sex assault on a child—position of trust.”

Of course, I wasn’t sure if this was the same guy. The post featured no actual mugshot of Martinez, and I still hadn’t confirmed that his first name was Timothy.

The arrest record seemed too ridiculous to be true. What were the chances that New Mexico’s largest school district hired an alleged pedophile as its second-in-command without vetting him? Each of the names Timothy, Jason and Martinez are all common. Could this really be the same guy that Denver Public Schools proudly posted a video on YouTube about when they gave him a technology award in 2012 (a video that has since been deleted)?

Probably not, I thought. But I might as well check anyway.

I called up the Denver Police Department and spoke to their spokesman, asking if he could send me the mugshot of Timothy Jason Martinez from his July 2013 arrest. When the spokesman asked me if Albuquerque police were now looking into Martinez, I told him I wasn’t sure. When we ended the call, the spokesman told me he’d get the picture to me as quickly as he could.

I started messaging my editor, who was working at home that day, about this, and we both expressed our doubts that this was the same Martinez. But one thing stood out—the age on Martinez’ online arrest record seemed to match the age on his LinkedIn account once I added up the education and work experience that he posted there.

My editor decided to come into work, though we both still had doubts.

Jason Martinez via LinkedIn

Jason Martinez via LinkedIn

An hour or two passed. I put in another call to the Denver police spokesman first. He told me he was getting ready to send Martinez’ mugshot, but that he just had to make sure Albuquerque police were OK with him doing so.

Just before 3:00 p.m., I got an email in my inbox titled “Denver booking photo.” Inside, a bug-eyed Jason Martinez—unmistakably the same Jason Martinez who had just left APS—was staring at me.

“HOLY SHIT IT’S HIM,” I messaged my editor.

Still, we spent the next three hours verifying and double- and triple-checking to make sure this was the same guy.

I called up the Denver District Attorney’s office to get details of Martinez’ 2013 arrest. The spokeswoman gave me verbal details of Martinez’ arrest—that he was initially charged with six counts and that it involved sexual assault of a child. She told me that Martinez was awaiting trial for these charges in October.

I pleaded with her that she get email these records before the end of the day. She said she would try to get to it, but that she had other tasks to complete before getting to mine.

I told her that the man we were talking about was recently a high-ranking public school official in Albuquerque and that he never completed his background check. She sent the documents to me at 4:00 p.m.

When I told all this to APS, they said they never knew Martinez was facing a trial and had been previously charged with sexual assaulting a child.

I was, of course, unable to get in contact with Martinez.

Throughout this afternoon, my editor studied the mugshot, comparing it to other pictures of Jason Martinez. He looked at the hairline. He looked at the earlobes. Everything matched.

At 4:50 pm, we published the story. Ten days later, Martinez sat in jail in Colorado and APS Superintendent Luis Valentino resigned from his position.

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