Ex-Donna ISD employee jailed for sexual relationship with student

EDINBURG — The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office revoked probation last week for a former Donna high school truancy officer who pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a student in 2015.

As part of his plea agreement with the Hidalgo DA’s Office, Arturo Castillo Jr. was given a four year-probated sentence and required not to be charged with any crimes during that period.

But in December 2018, a Cameron County jury found Castillo, 37, guilty of kidnapping and choking his now ex-girlfriend, and state District Judge Migdalia Lopez sentenced him to 15 years in state prison last month, according to court records.

Castillo made headlines in 2015 after he was arrested on the second-degree felony improper relationship charge, the third Donna Independent School District employee to be arrested on such a charge in a two-year span.

Castillo began texting the Donna North High School junior in 2014. The messages turned sexual and they eventually engaged in a sexual encounter, which she said he pressured her into because he had resolved her attendance issues by changing her absences to tardies, according to a deposition transcript.

After evidence was presented at his trial, the jury was deadlocked, resulting in a mistrial due to one juror maintaining his belief that Castillo was guilty while the 11 others felt he was innocent, according to attorney Juan “Sonny” Palacios, who represented Castillo.

Since Hidalgo County prosecutors failed to secure a guilty verdict at that trial, the DA’s Office offered Castillo deferred adjudication if he pleaded guilty to the charge, said District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez, who noted the victim and her family were aware of the agreement.

South Padre Island police arrested Castillo in 2017 on charges of aggravated kidnapping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend, with whom he had a relationship until the week before his December 2018 trial, according to Palacios. She allegedly knew about his probation terms and would “lure it over him” during their on-and-off relationship, the attorney said.

“Even after the allegations (of kidnapping), even after the arrests, even after the first dismissal, after reindictment, they were dating and living together,” Palacios said, adding: “The facts were questionable, but the jury believed the elements.”

The Hidalgo County DA’s Office revoked his probation immediately after the guilty verdict out of Cameron County and state District Judge Marla Cuellar sentenced him to 10 years on the improper relationship charge last week.

His Cameron and Hidalgo county sentences will run together.

Castillo, the son of Donna Councilman Arturo “Art” Castillo Sr., also worked as a coach at Donna North High School before he was fired from his truancy officer job in 2015.

The councilman declined to provide a comment about his son’s recent sentencing and instead threatened to file a lawsuit against a reporter for publishing information about his son’s case.

“If you want to do it (the story), then we’ll see what happens,” Castillo, the councilman, said.