Former Las Cruces principal accused of sharing child porn to remain in custody

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The former Las Cruces principal arrested on child porn charges last week will remain in jail after a New Mexico District Court judge deemed him a “flight risk” and “a danger to the community.”

As KTSM previously reported, Zia Middle School Principal Joel Aguilar Villanueva, 42, allegedly possessed and shared nearly 200 pornographic videos, with some victims as young as four years old.

According to court documents, investigators found that Villanueva allegedly used a TOR Browser, a tool that masks online activity, to distribute and download the files.

Upon searching his home, detectives reportedly found 14 additional computer storage devices, aside from the external hard drive containing child pornography.

Documents state that during his time serving as principal, Villanueva also allegedly engaged in what may have been “grooming” behaviors by having lunch with and buying things for boys with special needs.

During a preliminary detention hearing on Tuesday, the defense argued that Villanueva had no criminal history and no reason to flee, according to court documents.

The counsel proposed that, with an electronic monitoring device, he be released to a Diersen Charities halfway house or his home located near Fort Worth.

The prosecution contested that the halfway house would not ensure that Villanueva wouldn’t have access to young boys or the Internet, documents said. 

Prosecutors also argued that Villanueva, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Mexico, would depart the halfway house, remove the monitoring device, and flee to his native country, documents said.

The judge ordered that he remain in federal custody pending his trial. 

Villanueva’s “apparent ability to engage in criminal behavior while evading detection or apprehension heightens the danger he poses to a particularly vulnerable segment of the community,” the document reads.

Villanueva is charged with Transportation of Child Pornography and Possession of Child Pornography.

If convicted of the transportation charge, Villanueva faces five to 20 years in prison, and a maximum of 20 years on the possession charge.

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