May 18, 2016

DA didn’t sign off on APD selling crack, meth in ‘reverse stings’

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Jordan Meeter

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Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Wednesday that her office never signed off on, or consulted with the Albuquerque Police Department on a court-approved affidavit that gives APD permission to sell heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines to people and then arrest them on drug charges.

Police CarAn APD detective apparently presented the affidavit to a state District Court judge on Feb. 23. The affidavit said it was being presented in conjunction with the DA’s Office. “Comes now the State of New Mexico, through its Assistant District Attorney and Affiant Detective Marc Clingenpeel,” the affidavit said.

But the document did not contain the name or initials of any ADA, and Brandenburg told ABQ Free Press that her office was not involved in its preparation. “We have confirmed that our office did not sign off on, or consult the police department on the affidavit and order of February 25th,” Brandenburg said.

The affidavit was filed in the court Clerk’s Office on Feb. 25.

Brandenburg added that drug cases being prosecuted under the reverse sting operation authorized by the affidavit could now be challenged because the affidavit isn’t true. “It certainly gives lie for challenge that the affidavit is untrue, that it has information that is inaccurate, and therefore, isn’t valid.” Brandenburg said.

Pete Dinelli, the city’s former Public Safety director, said APD lied in making it appear the DA’s office had been consulted on the affidavit. “The pleading that was filed is a clear misrepresentation and a misleading of the district court. It rises to the level of perpetrating a fraud upon the court,” Dinelli said. “It just confirms that you have a narc division that is out of control.”

The affidavit added that police would use up to eight ounces each of cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and meth as part of the reverse sting operation. “The Albuquerque Police Department’s Narcotics Unit will use the heroin, methamphetamines, crack cocaine and/or cocaine, obtained from the Albuquerque Police Department’s Evidence Unit to sell to individuals who are seeking to purchase drugs within the City of Albuquerque,” the affidavit said.

Brandenburg said that reverse stings “are longstanding and have been going on for decades. We know that we have prosecuted these kinds of cases in the past 16 years, but we really don’t have a database and can’t really verify [how many cases have been prosecuted,” Brandenburg said. She added that the affidavit’s language about working in conjunction with the DA’s office is “pretty standard” and speculated that the detective might have copied and pasted the language from a previously approved affidavit. But, she added, “you would not put that in if you had not consulted with us.”

The affidavit and order also gave APD permission to manufacture crack cocaine. But Dinelli said that state law prohibits the manufacturing of illegal drugs and that it contains no exception for law enforcement. “There are other states that have an exception, but New Mexico does not,” Dinelli said. “This is a practice that should be immediately stopped and the judge should be asked to quash the order and suspend the practice.

Brandenburg said that here office discourages reverse sting operations because of the manpower shortage at APD.

Dinelli said APD is showing its true colors in the way it handled the affidavit. “Once again it is a reflection of the ongoing, cavalier, cowboy approach to law enforcement by APD,” Dinelli said.

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