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SISD Trustee Pablo Barrera arrested for official oppression, attorney confirms

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- ABC-7 has learned Socorro Independent School District Trustee Pablo Barrera was arrested Thursday on various charges, including official oppression.

In a phone call with ABC-7,  Barrera's attorney, Mary Stillinger, said she didn't have all the information as of yet, including the circumstances surrounding his arrest, but said Barrera is cooperating with authorities. 

Stillinger said she doesn't think Barrera did anything wrong, and said she looks forward to defending him.

ABC-7 learned early Thursday Barrera, who represents District 5, was arrested on a warrant by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

ABC-7 did a quick check of online county jail records and found multiple charges against SISD Trustee Pablo Barrera, including improper influence, obstruction or retaliation, and coercion of a public servant/voter. 

Records show the offense dates range from May 30 and July 1, 2022. 

We reached out to the Sheriff's Office for details about his arrest. 

Sheriff's Office spokesman Ray Vaquera referred us to DPS Texas Rangers, who he said is overseeing the case.

The Sheriff's Office did, however, confirm it was the arresting agency.

We've reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety and we're waiting to hear back.

ABC-7 also reached out to the school district for comment and were sent the following written statement:

"The district was made aware that a current Trustee was arrested by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department earlier today," the statement read. "This is a legal matter and we will cooperate with law enforcement. The district has no additional information on the matter at this time. The focus of the district remains on serving students and supporting staff to ensure the successful completion of the school year."

Barrera's arrest comes on the heels of an investigative report done by the Texas Agency of Education that shed light on several failures at Socorro ISD.

ABC-7 obtained a copy of the report from the TEA under the Texas Public Information Act. 

The report said SISD violated the Texas Education Code by graduating students who did not meet requirements, failed to disclose Trustee Paul Guerra’s connections to a vendor used by the district, and paid unauthorized stipends to staff members. 

The TEA recently appointed two conservators to oversee the district following that report. 

Records show Barrera was booked and then released Thursday.

ABC-7 has reached out to the Texas Agency of Education for comment, and all the SISD trustees.

We reached SISD Trustee Ricardo Castellano by phone earlier Thursday.

”This is just a continued persecution by the district of Mr. Barrera and his family, Castellano explained to ABC-7. "We wanted to bring forth what’s wrong with the district so we can make corrective actions. Everything has been presented through an audit. There is no follow-up action by the district or its employee or the superintendent to hold people accountable by those actions. The names are out there for people to review, but the focus has been on us two. There is no equal protection here under the law."

According to the SISD website, Barrera is a former sergeant with the United States Marine Corps and served for eight years with two combat tours, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan.

ABC-7 will update this story as more information becomes available.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

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