Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Spate Of Violence Raises Questions About APD Reform Efforts, Plus: Who Gets The Hot Potato? Judge Shopping In The Case Of The Accused Cops, Plus: More Sam Slammin' And 2004 VS. 2014 

Another spate of violence involving APD and it's raising questions on how much progress, if any, the city is making in reforming the troubled agency.

Tuesday night, only a day after District Attorney Kari Brandenburg charged two APD officers with murder for a 2014 shooting, APD shot and killed a suspect in the mid-NE Heights. Eerie.

And then we had APD shooting another cop by mistake. On top of that there was the shooting of a police officer by a suspect. All of this since the start of 2015.

US Attorney Damon Martinez and the Justice Department, which is working to overhaul APD, obviously need to step on the gas. Meanwhile, Mayor Berry asserts that the violence and police chaos that plagues this town is not impacting its national reputation and ability to attract business, that we are providing an example on how to reform a police department. Say what? That's like turning tragedy into farce. . .


The bunker mentality of Berry and APD may have reached its zenith when a staffer for District Attorney Brandenburg was shut out from a briefing on the Tuesday night shooting. It was an outrageous action, turning on its head decades of precedent and legal requirement. But then Brandenburg has charged two cops with crimes and the Berry Bunker is in full attack mode.

The thugocracy that has taken hold at the police department and the acquiescence to it by a very weak chief executive is going to end badly. That an unelected rogue APD had the gall to bar the highest elected law enforcement official of the county from a crime briefing of a fatal police shooting reveals a dangerous arrogance. If that isn't enough to get our passive US Attorney off his seat, what is?


Talk about a hot seat. What New Mexico judge will end up presiding over one of the most celebrated cases of this young century?

After Bernalillo County District Attorney Brandenburg announced the unprecedented filing of murder charges against two APD officers who shot and killed mentally disturbed homeless camper James Boyd, District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield was assigned to preside over the preliminary hearing. Hadfield would determine at that hearing if Brandenburg's charges merited sending the case to trial. But it's unlikely that Judge Hadfield or any other ABQ District Court judge will end up wielding the gavel in this sensational case. Former Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Dinelli says:

The assignment of Judge Hadfield is not permanent and just the first one up. Cases are assigned on a rotating basis as they are filed and she was the first Judge assigned the case. The defense or prosecution can now disqualify her without cause or Judge Hatfield could recuse (disqualify) herself. This process will now happen with each assignment as it occurs. The prosecution and defense could approach the presiding Criminal Judge to assign the case or request an experienced pro tem judge (retired) to handle it. 

The case is so hot that the Legal Beagles say it could fall to the NM Supreme Court Chief Justice to name a judge. All the ABQ District Judges have had cases involving APD and that makes it difficult for any of them to preside over the Boyd case. Dinelli adds:

What is needed is a highly respected Judge with enough "gravitas" and experience to be able to preside over such a high profile criminal case who will not worry about political consequences and be completely comfortable dealing with the pressure of making a decision on whether there is enough evidence to prosecute. By going with a criminal information and a preliminary hearing before a Judge, the DA has made a politically smart decision and shifted the political consequences of a career-ending case to a Judge and away from her and a grand jury.

Don't expect that preliminary hearing to happen anytime soon. With all the legal wrangling to come it could be a year. And if a judge eventually decides the case should go to trial, don't expect to see it in media saturated ABQ. One of the APD officer's attorneys is already making noise about how no fair trial could be held here.

For cases that have received extraordinary public attention, Las Cruces is often selected as an alternative venue because it is outside the ABQ media market.


The Monday blog on the political impact of having attorney Sam Bregman--chairman of the NM Democratic Party--serving as the chief attorney for one of the accused cops, brought reaction. This one was typical:

Like many Dems I was astounded to see Sam Bregman on TV bashing District Attorney Kari Brandenburg and just as sickened to see the law firm of former NM Democratic Party Chair Brian Colon joining in with Bregman to fight against her. You would think that Colon's firm and Bregman would show some political sense and stay out of it. I wonder if they understand that (Gov. Martinez political adviser) Jay McCleskey, (ABQ Chief Administrative Officer) Rob Perry and Mayor Berry are likely shaking their heads in amazement about how easy it is to roll over these Democrats when you wave some cash.  But this is the state of the Democratic Party of New Mexico--because there's no leadership at the top, people are allowed to run amok and pledge that they are loyal Democrats with one hand and with the other they're taking government contracts or representing clients affiliated with the Martinez administration. 


It was 2004--the heyday of Big Bill and ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez when the national media and the local biz community was imagining ABQ as a darling of the new century.  So very long ago, The  news today:

Albuquerque placed 179 out of 200 in the large city category, falling 24 spots from its ranking of 155 in Milken’s 2013 index of best-performing cities. The report says the index is designed to measure how well cities are “promoting economic vitality based on job creation and retention, the quality of new jobs, and other criteria.” For perspective, Albuquerque placed 20th among large cities in the Milken index in 2004.

Will ABQ ever return to those salad days when it ranked so high? No, the history of the city has been irrevocably changed , but certainly we can do better.

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