Former special needs teacher admits sexually assaulting student

Juan Herrera

SAN DIEGO — A former San Diego High School teacher who sexually and physically assaulted an underage female student pleaded guilty to 11 felonies Tuesday, including lewd acts on a child and assault.

Juan Carlos Herrera, 49, formerly a special needs curriculum instructor, is slated to be sentenced to 10 years in state prison next month for assaulting the unidentified victim “on almost a daily basis” between February 2018 and March of this year, when the girl was 15 and 16 years old, according to Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto.

His plea agreement includes lifetime registration as a sex offender and a strike offense for his plea to a dissuading a witness count for threatening the girl if she told anyone about what happened.

In addition to the sexual assaults, Herrera threatened to cut the girl’s arms and legs off if she told anyone what was going on, choked her and threw her on the ground, according to the prosecutor.

The crimes occurred in his classroom, his car and at a hotel, prosecutors said.

The prosecutor said the girl was a San Diego High School student, but is not a special needs student and was not one of Herrera’s students.

“This case involves emotional manipulation by the defendant, who was verbally abusive and coercive towards the victim in this case, who was particularly vulnerable, as (Herrera) took advantage of information he knew about her background and used it to manipulate her,” Coto said following his May arraignment.

The investigation into Herrera began earlier this year, when the victim’s mother reported finding suspicious and concerning text messages from Herrera on the girl’s cellphone, SDPD Lt. Carole Beason said.

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