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School board member's arrest is latest shock in Moreno Valley

Moreno Valley school board member Mike Luis Rios has been arrested twice in 16 months — once on suspicion of attempted murder and most recently on suspicion of rape and pimping.

April 06, 2012|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

When roll is called at Tuesday's Moreno Valley Board of Education meeting, chances are board member Mike Luis Rios won't be present.

He is being held at a Riverside County jail.

In his 16 months on the board, Rios has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of raping two women, pimping and using his position as a school board member to recruit would-be, and sometimes underage, prostitutes.

The arrest continues a tumultuous period for the five-member board. Apart from dealing with Rios' arrests, the school board is considering severe budget cuts, including more than 300 teacher layoffs, eliminating district busing and possibly closing the district's adult school next year.

After being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, Rios was released on bail last month, and he returned to the board. He attended a meeting at which he faced a vocal crowd that called for his resignation. His attorney spoke on his behalf, contending that Rios would be exonerated.

On Wednesday evening in Moreno Valley, he was arrested again.

"I was shocked," said board Vice President Cleveland Johnson. "He professed his innocence to the board, as well as the citizens of Moreno Valley. You want to believe him; he's our colleague."

Messages left with Rios' attorney were not returned.

Among those calling for Rios' resignation is the Democratic Club of Moreno Valley. Rios, whose term ends in 2014, is a Democrat. The group has begun a recall effort against him.

"He won't step down, so we have to recall him," club President Nina Hiers said. "He's just no good, and we don't care what party he is."

Rios is alleged to have shot at two people outside his house in February following an altercation at a night club. No one was hit. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of dissuading a witness, according to Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback, who is prosecuting both cases.

During the investigation into the shooting, Riverside County investigators became aware of other possible crimes.

Investigators allege that while recruiting potential prostitutes, including two who were underage, Rios told one woman he was a school board member and asked if she needed a job. Another woman answered an Internet ad, and Rios offered a girl the use of his vehicle if she would work for him.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday. If convicted, he could face a life sentence.

The board can't remove Rios from his seat unless he is convicted.

They can, however, invoke a state law that allows an elected official to be removed from office if he effectively abandons his seat by not attending meetings or performing duties for three months.

Johnson said he would support Rios' removal if those criteria were met.

"In the meantime, we need to continue to work together the way we did when Mr. Rios was unavailable," he said. "We've been through this before; we're going to continue to work hard in spite of this recent activity of Mr. Rios."

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

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