Football coach charged with sex crimes with student

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A football coach accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage student while working at Mar Vista High School pleaded not guilty Thursday to 20 felony counts, including child molestation.

Edward Aaron Mendoza, who worked as a walk-on assistant football coach at the Imperial Beach campus last fall, is accused of engaging in sex acts with the ninth-grade girl at the Elm Avenue school from September 2015 to the end of February 2016. The girl was 13 when the alleged relationship began and is now 14.

Bail was set at $900,000 for Mendoza, 27, who remained in custody. He could face 20 years and 8 months in prison if convicted.

Mendoza was arrested Tuesday outside his current workplace in Chula Vista, according to sheriff's officials.

The alleged crimes were reported after the student's father discovered that she was having “extensive phone conversations with Mendoza and was having an inappropriate relationship with him,'' Lt. Dan Brislin said.

“Detectives discovered Mendoza had fostered an ongoing relationship with the victim and engaged in sexual activity with her at school over a period of about six months,'' the lieutenant said.

Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Matzger said Mendoza is facing charges for allegedly touching the girl in various places on her body when she was 13 and 14. Mendoza is also charged with sending the girl pictures of his genitalia, the prosecutor said.

The suspect has not worked at the school since December, when the football season ended, said Manny Rubio, spokesman for Sweetwater Union High School District.

Judge Patricia Garcia set a preliminary hearing for June 2 and ordered Mendoza to stay away from the alleged victim should he post bail. A readiness conference is set for May 26.

It's not the only accusation of improper sex involving authority figures and students at Mar Vista High School.

Last Saturday, detectives arrested Mar Vista ROTC instructor Martin Albert Gallegos, 48, for allegedly having sex with a 12th-grade female student on multiple occasions. Gallegos, a substitute teacher, was subsequently fired and is scheduled to be arraigned next week.

A third man, 20-year-old Alejandro Rodriguez, who reportedly worked as a tutor at Mar Vista, was charged last month with having sex with a minor.

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