Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Thursday morning that District Attorney Kari Brandenburg will not face bribery and intimidation charges referred to his office by the Albuquerque Police Department.
A letter to APD chief Gorden Eden outlined the reasoning and also dinged both the police department and Brandenburg for how the situation was handled.
In a release, the AG said there is “insufficient evidence” that any crime took place.
“This conclusion was based on APD case materials, and additional evidence gathered by my office during its expanded, independent investigation,” Balderas said in his statement. “While we did not find sufficient evidence of criminal conduct, there were identifiable leadership failures to which both agencies can take immediate corrective action and begin to re-focus on serving the people of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.”
APD referred a case to Balderas’ office that Brandenburg bribed and intimidated victims of alleged crimes involving her son, Justin Koch. Brandenburg denied the allegations in a press conference late last year.
New Mexico Political Report has contacted both Brandenburg and the Albuquerque Police Department for a response to the decision and criticisms from Balderas. This piece will be updated with any response received.
Political timing by APD, appearance of impropriety by Brandenburg
Much of the letter from Balderas was devoted to the reasoning in the case, however there were portions that criticized actions taken by APD and Brandenburg.
The letter says the Brandenburg case appeared to be delayed for political reasons involving Brandenburg’s decision to pursue murder charges against APD officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez.
“APD’s own analysis of the evidence in this matter leads us to conclude that the decision to delay was based on political reasons unrelated to the alleged conduct of Koch or Brandenburg,” the letter states.
APD finished the investigation into the alleged wrongdoing by Brandenburg in late July of 2014. However, the case was referred to the Attorney General’s office “soon after Brandenburg notified the lawyers for Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez that she was going to charge their clients with an open count of murder in October of 2014.” A report by Detective David Nix was turned over to the Attorney General on November 25, 2014.
Brandenburg’s actions were also criticized in the letter.
Upon learning of a criminal investigation involving her son within her jurisdiction, District Attorney Brandenburg should have immediately arranged for a special prosecutor and refrained from personally engaging potential witnesses and alleged victims in this matter involving her son. She also should have notified the Albuquerque Police Department that she was aware of the investigation, and that she had made arrangements for a special prosecutor.
The letter says that “her conduct did not rise to the level of being criminal” but her actions “clearly created an appearance of impropriety.”
No evidence of bribery or intimidation
One case involved an allegedly stolen gun.
From Balderas’ letter:
There was no evidence presented that Brandenburg intimidated or threatened Andrew or Victoria Baros or gave or offered to give anything of value to Andrew or Victoria Baros with the intent to keep either person from truthfully reporting to a law enforcement officer, or any agency of government that is responsible for enforcing criminal laws, information relating to the commission or possible commission of a felony offense. There was no evidence presented that Brandenburg intimidated or threatened either Andrew or Victoria Baros.
After the alleged larceny, an $800 reimbursement check was sent to Andrew Baros, “from Koch’s trust account.” Despite “something of value” being given to the couple, Balderas says there was no evidence that the payment was made with the intention of stopping the couple from reporting the crime.
“In fact, by the time Andrew Baros first communicated with Brandenburg, Victoria Baros had already called the police and named Koch as the only suspect,” the letter says.
Brandenburg did tell Baros that she wanted to keep her son out of jail, but the letter noted it was five days after the payment.
Another case involved an alleged burglary in June of 2013. Brandenburg communicated with Ryan Sena through Facebook and asked Sena to let her know the value of the stolen items.
“It appears that Sena and [Shane] Anaya submitted a list of items to Brandenburg because they wanted to get reimbursed, not because they were threatened or intimidated to do so,” the letter says.
Sena says that Brandenburg “contacted him from a blocked number” and said she would reimburse him for the stolen items if he did not go to police. Balderas’ investigators were unable to find any evidence to confirm that this took place and found some evidence that contradicted the claim by Sena and Anaya.
Read the full letter below.