Childress – Dante Dwight Hibbert, a former coach and teacher at Childress Independent School District, pleaded guilty and was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for ten years for the second degree felony offense of improper relationship between educator and student.
“The legislature made this offense a crime because we don’t want educators treating the school as a hunting ground to fulfill their sexual desires,” said 100th District Attorney Luke Inman after the plea.
Inman, along with Assistant District Attorney Harley Caudle, prosecuted the case for the State of Texas, with the Honorable Judge Stuart Messer presiding.
Hibbert, 26, now residing in Dallas, was arrested by Texas Ranger Job Espinoza on Nov. 17, 2020.
During the investigation, multiple electronic devices were seized pursuant to search warrants obtained by Espinoza, according to court documents.
In addition to the electronic devices, multiple third party sites where certain electronic data was stored had to be recovered from additional search warrants and subpoenas by Espinoza, according to Inman.
When information of this magnitude is seized pursuant to an investigation, the analysis of all the data can be the most time consuming part of the investigation.
“We are fortunate to have Texas Ranger Job Espinoza in our area working some of our most serious crimes,” said Inman. “In every case he’s submitted to our office he has proven to be an exceptional investigator. His hard work on this case, along with the victim’s assistance, made it possible to bring this case to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Hibbert is also required to pay a $2,000 fine to Childress County, $340 in court costs, successfully complete 300 hours of community service and prohibited from having contact with any of the victims.
Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors across the State are at the mercy of data analysts who have backed up caseloads, according to Inman.
This problem is attributable to the limited number of certified technicians in this State who can conduct forensic analysis from electronics, and in cases like this one, the forensic data from cellphones and social media accounts are critical evidence for the prosecution, according to Inman.
“Until we get all the reports and evidence, we simply cannot move forward on the case,” said Inman. “When this time lapse occurs, there are always rumors that surface as to why the case isn’t moving forward. That’s understandable. It might not appease the masses, but making sure we have all the evidence is our ethical obligation under the law to make sure justice is done.”
If Hibbert violates probation, he could face up to 20 years in the Institutional Division of Texas Department of Criminal Justice.