The Justice Files: Imprisoned school counselor to be released

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Courtesy: Utah state prison

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – A former West High School counselor will soon be paroled.

Friday the Utah Board of Pardons granted Marco Herrera parole in late August.

Herrera appeared Wednesday before a hearing officer making an appeal for his release as he spoke of his victim.

“I was supposed to help her,” Herrera said to a hearing officer.  “I was her counselor. Instead I hurt her.”

In 2007, Herrera was charged with three counts of rape and multiple charges of sex abuse.  His victim was a student he counseled at West High.  
Herrera accepted a plea bargain that dropped the rape charges but kept most of the sex abuse charges.

He was sentenced to three consecutive one-to-fifteen years at the Utah state prison.
In 2010, Herrera became eligible for parole.  The young woman whom he victimized made a brief statement objecting to his release.

“I believe that Marco Herrera has forever changed the way that I will trust myself, my own classmates, that I will trust any man,” she said.  “My life has been turned upside down.”

No parole was granted and the board decided that he would not have another hearing until 2020.  But they also required Herrera to get sex offender treatment
Wednesday, Herrera used a wheelchair as he was transported into the room.  He appeared remorseful.
“I know how resilient and resourceful this young woman is,” said Herrera. “And how much of the fighting spirit there is in her.   As far as my actions (I have) extreme sorrow and regret that I have, what I did to her.”

Herrera was a counselor for more than two decades.  At the time of his arrest there was extreme shock.  Many students praised Herrera for helping them when they sought guidance.  But then, he committed a mistake forgetting what all educators are taught from the very beginning.  

“Instead of helping her with boundaries, helping her with appropriate interactions, I did the exact opposite,” he said.

He said he couldn’t understand how this came about.  He said he was like in a trance.  He lost interest in his wife and family and chose the risky behavior.

“I allowed myself to indulge in selfish behavior and thinking and forgot about my job, my wife, my family, my students,” he said.  “I thought about what I wanted instead.”

While in prison, Herrera was considered a model prisoner.   He said his goal now is to reunite with his family, piece together a life but also keep in mind these past twelve years.

“It haunts me that I did something like that,” Herrera said.  “Never again, no way, not even approaching.” 

According to the board of pardons website, Herrera will be granted parole August 25.  But he will remain on the state’s sex offender registry.

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