Teacher facing 32 child molestation charges pleads to lesser charges

Facing 32 separate charges of child molestation, a former North Las Vegas elementary school teacher pleaded guilty late last month to three lesser counts of attempted lewdness with a child.

Jeremiah Mazo, a longtime music instructor with the Clark County School District, now will avoid a public trial that could have aired what investigators discovered after eight children told police that the 54-year-old man inappropriately touched them.

His initial 10 charges stemmed from an April arrest following an 8-year-old’s account that Mazo molested her on 10 separate occasions at Hayden Elementary School, near Centennial Parkway and Commerce Street, in North Las Vegas.

Mazo, who admitted to two of those incidents, faced similar charges in 2008. But a North Las Vegas judge ultimately dismissed and sealed that case.

The plea agreement filed July 27 recommends Mazo serve 15 to 60 years in prison.

He returns to district court for a sentencing hearing in October.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Department of Education will consider new regulations that could make it easier for the State Board of Education, similar to other licensing boards in Nevada, to temporarily suspend a teacher’s license.

Current statutes prevent the education board from suspending or revoking an educator’s license without a final conviction in court. But in early May, the state department and attorney general’s office began exploring a process that would allow temporary suspension following an accusation of sexual misconduct.

“A teaching license is a property right, and you can’t take that away without due process,” Dale Erquiaga, state superintendent of public instruction, said at the time. “It’s a complicated issue (but) the number of these cases frankly seem to be on the rise.”

Mazo first joined the district as a music teacher in 2003 and has since taught at several elementary campuses, including Hayes and Woolley in Las Vegas and Cozine and Simmons in North Las Vegas. His latest position at Hayden Elementary School started six years ago.

In 2008, Mazo faced similar charges of student sex abuse with a child about the same age as the 8-year-old in the current case.

North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Natalie Tyrrell eventually dismissed the charges in 2008 after Mazo completed certain court requirements, and Tyrrell later sealed the case from public review. She also handled the current case until it went to district court.

After the 2008 case, Mazo returned to work in elementary schools — a fact which district officials blamed on stipulations in union-negotiated contracts that offer few options to fire teachers without a conviction in court.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky suspended Mazo without pay after he missed too many days of work following his arrest.

The district later recommended his dismissal, but final action must wait for an arbitrator’s official decision or Mazo’s resignation from his position.

Contact Neal Morton at nmorton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @nealtmorton.

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