Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A former varsity boys’ basketball coach at Vista High School who allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact with a female student pleaded not guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child.

Charlie Jesus Mercado Jr., 36, surrendered to authorities last month after learning a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

On May 11, the alleged victim, a junior at Vista High, told administrators that she was in an “inappropriate relationship” with Mercado, according to sheriff’s Lt. Dan Brislin.

“During the investigation, detectives discovered that Mercado fostered an intimate relationship with the victim and on one occasion met with her off campus, (and) they engaged in inappropriate physical contact,” the lieutenant said.

Mercado, who had been employed at Vista High since August 2005, was fired shortly after the allegations arose, according to Vista Unified School District Director of Human Relations Kyle Ruggles.

Mercado — free on $10,000 bail — had a readiness conference set for Oct. 18 and trial scheduled for Nov. 16.

—City News Service