SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- The special needs teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, pleaded not guilty to 20 felony counts. He also declared he would represent himself in the case.
Against the advice of the judge, 49-year-old Juan Carlos Herrera told the courtroom, he will fight this alone.
"I would like to represent myself," Herrera said.
Relinquishing rights to counsel, the San Diego High school special needs teacher read the 20 felonies for the first time inside the defendant's box. Those charges include having sex, performing other sex acts, and physically and emotionally abusing one student between February 2018 and this March, when she was 15 and 16 years old.
"They occurred on an almost daily basis," Deputy District Attorney, Jessica Coto said. "They took place in hotels, in his car, and in his classroom."
Coto said his ongoing manipulation extended to making threats.
"The defendant also routinely threatened the victim, that if she told anybody about what was happening, that she would cut off her arms and legs," Coto said.
This all came to light on May 5, 2019, when police arrested Herrera at the US-Mexico border. Days prior, the girl's mother found inappropriate messages from Herrera on her daughter's phone.
Because of the nature of the charges, and Herrera's second home in Mexico, the prosecution requested $1 million bail. As his own attorney, Herrera fought back, saying he is a Navy veteran with a 25-year clean record with the district.
"It's not conceivable for someone with my earnings to make $1 million, nor would I flee," Herrera pleaded. "I have been a person of honor and honesty since the beginning."
The judge disagreed and kept the bail at $1 million, handing Herrera his first loss, leaving him in utter disbelief.
The judge also put a criminal protection order for the now-17-year-old victim. If convicted, Herrera could face a maximum of 16 years eight months in prison. But the prosecution mentioned, more time could be added if they find more evidence of sexual abuse.