A former Los Lunas High School coach is facing federal charges after he allegedly exchanged thousands of explicit text messages with a local teenage girl last year.

Johnathon Bindues, 30, of Los Lunas, was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 23 on one count of coercion and enticement of a minor and eight counts of production of child pornography.

Johnathon M. Bindues
Indicted on federal charges

Bindues was arraigned in federal court on March 30, where he entered a plea of not guilty.

Bindues was a contract coach for Los Lunas Schools when the messages were sent. LLS Human Resources director Andrew Saiz confirmed his contract was not renewed. Bindues was an assistant and head coach for the girls track and field team, as well as an assistant coach for the girls basketball team.

In mid July of last year, Bindues was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child, third-degree felonies; three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, fourth-degree felonies; as well as four counts of criminal sexual penetration and four counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, all second-degree felonies.

The arrest came after a woman discovered her then 15-year-old daughter was having sexually explicit conversations with Bindues via text message, as well as sending pictures and videos. From September 2020 to June 2021, Bindues allegedly exchanged more than 17,000 text messages with the girl.

In September of last year, the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office dismissed the state charges against Bindues while waiting for the completion of the investigation by New Mexico State Police. The 14 counts of sexual crimes against a minor were dismissed without prejudice, meaning criminal charges could be re-filed.

On Monday, April 4, 13th Judicial District Attorney Barb Romo said she was not notified Bindues was facing federal charges.

“We have been asking for discovery from the state police for months now. Apparently, the victim’s mother was told we’d dropped the ball, that we were not pursuing the case,” Romo said. “We are still pursuing our case. We have an expert in grooming, who is half way through examining (the discovery) we do have.

“My understanding is they are pursuing the child pornography charges but are not prosecuting the (criminal sexual penetration) charges. We have concurrent jurisdiction and I don’t care who prosecutes the cases, but I’d like to be kept in the loop. The mother of this little girl was given incorrect information … That upsets me more than anything.”

Romo said she is setting up meetings with the state police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the district of New Mexico to determine why her office wasn’t notified about the pursuit of federal charges.

“Obviously, my concern will always be doing what is best for the victim and what they want,” the district attorney said. “We have certainly not made the decision to drop or not pursue this case.”

The day before Bindues’ arraignment on Tuesday, March 29, Assistant United States Attorney Jaymie L. Roybal filed a motion to detain him until trial, arguing the defendant misused his position and the special access he had to minor females to prey on, and have sex with, a student athlete he was entrusted to coach.

The girl disclosed to investigators she had sex with Bindues on three separate occasions at Los Lunas High School and his home.

In his motion, Roybal said he strongly disagreed with the United States Probation Office’s recommendation, which, if followed, “would release a child predator back into the community he has victimized.”

The text messages between Bindues and the girl demonstrate he was grooming her and using his special position of trust to coerce her into sexual acts for his benefit, Roybal wrote, noting the messages showed not just an inappropriate relationship between a high school coach and student athlete but also an unlawful sexual relationship.

In an April 2021 text to the girl, who was 14 years old at that time, Bindues allegedly wrote, “I thought you turned 16 today, not 15?” a statement Roybal argued clearly showed Bindues knew she was 15 but did not deter him from pursuing a sexual relationship with her.

In a string of messages that same month, Bindues allegedly ended an exchange with, “I know you delete but please make sure it’s immediately.”

Roybal argued that it was Bindues’ close ties to the Los Lunas community which gave him access to minors and the trust given him that led to the alleged crimes.

Prior to his arraignment and detention hearing, Bindues was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal’s Service, and it was proposed he be released to the third-party custody of his fiancée, who Bindues was dating while allegedly having sex with the teenage girl, presumably without said fiancée’s knowledge, Roybal’s motion to detain reads.

On Wednesday, March 30, Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter issued a release order for Bindues to be released to the custody of his fiancée to their shared home in Los Lunas, an order Roybal intends to appeal. In his notice to appeal, the assistant U.S. attorney asked the judge to not file the order and have Bindues remain in custody until the appeal could be resolved.

A formal appeal briefing will be done as soon as all parties receive the detention hearing transcript. The transcript was filed in federal district court on Monday, April 4.

At this time, Bindues is in custody and will remain so until an April 18 hearing on Roybal’s motion for detention.

If convicted, Bindues faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison for coercion and enticement, and a minimum of 15 years and up to 30 years in prison for production of child pornography. He would also be subject to registration as a sex offender.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.