2 Texas Youth Administrators Plead Not Guily to Sexually Abusing Inmates

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Two former Texas Youth Commission administrators pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that they sexually abused teenage inmates at the juvenile prison they managed.

Ray E. Brookins, 41, the former assistant superintendent at the West Texas State School in Pyote, has been indicted on two counts each of improper relationship with a student and improper sexual activity with a person in custody. He was released from the Travis County jail in Austin last week after posting $100,000 bond and appeared in court wearing a black suit.

Brookins, who smiled at times while consulting with his lawyer, spoke only as District Judge Bob Parks asked for his plea and if he wanted the charges against him read aloud.

He declined to comment after the morning's brief hearing.

John Paul Hernandez, the former principal at the jail, waved to relatives as he entered the court room in a blue and gray stripped jail uniform and clutched a rosary during the hearing.

He was indicted last week on one count of sexual assault, nine counts of improper sexual activity with a person in custody and nine counts of improper relationship between a student and educator.

Hernandez was arrested moments after the indictments were issued last week and has remained jailed in Ward County on $650,000 bond.

His lawyer, Albert Valadez, asked the court to pay for an investigator to help with the defense, but Parks refused until Hernandez could prove he had no other financial options.

Hernandez has been unemployed since he was fired from an Odessa charter school when his employers realized he was being investigated for sexually abusing teenagers.

He answered questions about his financial situation, saying he could not afford to pay his lawyer, hire an investigator, or pay his bond. He said his parents, who were in court Thursday, could not provide any financial help. His father retired from Enron in 1992 and both parents live on a fixed income, Hernandez testified.

Hernandez said he would try to borrow money from his state retirement account "if and when I am released on bond."

Hernandez said he also plans to take out a mortgage on his Fort Stockton home, worth about $25,000, to help pay his legal bills.

"He's in a dilemma. He can't get out of jail to do the work he needs," Valadez said.