Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez announced Friday afternoon his office would not reopen the case against former Albuquerque Police Department officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy. The announcement came almost three months after Torrez took office and two months after he announced a special task force of prosecutors would review the case. In a press conference Torrez said both the task force and two attorneys from his office came to the same conclusion—that there was no evidence to show that a new trial would result in a new outcome. “There is no reason to believe the case against officers Sandy and Perez could be tried better or more exhaustively at a second trial or that a second jury could reach a different outcome than the first,” Torrez told reporters. The decision to not prosecute signals the end to a nearly-two year legal battle.
A House committee on Saturday advanced a bill that would expand required background checks to include most gun purchases in New Mexico. After a hearing that lasted more than three hours, the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-1 along party lines in favor of House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos. The committee’s action mirrored that of a Senate panel that last week approved an identical proposal, Senate Bill 48. While the New Mexico Legislature is moving toward expanding mandatory background checks, Congress is heading in the other direction. The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 235-180 to scuttle an Obama-era rule requiring background checks for gun purchases by some Social Security recipients with mental disabilities.
Two weeks before he takes office, incoming District Attorney Raul Torrez announced he had formed a team of prosecutors that will review a high-profile officer shooting case in Albuquerque. The goal is to determine whether to prosecute the case again. Torrez will officially take office as the 2nd Judicial District attorney next month, but on Tuesday said he already convened a group of seven district attorneys from around the state to review the controversial case involving Keith Sandy and Dominque Perez. Sandy and Perez were Albuquerque police officers who were charged with the death of homeless camper James Boyd. The first trial ended in a hung jury.
Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn on Monday dismissed the second-degree murder charge against former Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez, who was accused of fatally shooting homeless camper James Boyd in March 2014. McGinn filed a one-page motion in state District Court in Albuquerque to dismiss the case “without prejudice,” which means that incoming District Attorney Raul Torrez could refile the charge if he chooses to after he takes office on Jan. 1. McGinn said she couldn’t comment on why she dismissed the charge against Perez, but she did add that the second-degree murder charge against former officer Keith Sandy remained in place and that Torrez will have to decide on whether to retry Sandy. McGinn said she spoke last week with Perez’s attorney, Luis Robles, about her intent to dismiss the charge against his client.
Protesters, disappointed with a mistrial in the case of two Albuquerque police officers, blocked traffic, chanted and had a few tense moments with police Wednesday night in downtown Albuquerque. The protesters, under 100 at the peak and almost a quarter that by the end of the protest hours later, began at the 2nd Judicial District courthouse, before marching to the police station. After returning to the courthouse, protesters briefly clashed with police wearing tactical gear. Reporters saw pushing and shoving between the two groups. Police eventually got protesters to retreat to the sidewalk next to the courthouse without any arrests.
The Bernalillo County district attorney race is essentially decided two months ahead of election day, as the Democratic candidate is officially running unopposed. Former federal prosecutor Raul Torrez will now head to the polls with an almost guaranteed win for the DA race this November. “From the beginning of our campaign, we have set out to build a modern, thoughtful criminal justice system in this community that not only keeps our families safe, but also makes us proud,” Torrez said in a statement to NM Political Report. “Over the coming weeks and months, I look forward to discussing these values and ideas with stakeholders from all across the community as we prepare to take office in January.” Torrez won the primary election against former Albuquerque police officer Ed Perea and briefly ran against Republican Simon Kubiak until Kubiak dropped out of the race in June. The Republican Party of Bernalillo County confirmed earlier this week that no Republican candidate would run for the position.
Republican Simon Kubiak announced Thursday he is dropping out of the race for District Attorney in Bernalillo County. Kubiak, an Albuquerque defense attorney, told NM Political Report his reasons for dropping out are “purely financial” and that he was at a disadvantage against his Democratic candidate Raul Torrez. “I just can’t raise as much money as Raul,” Kubiak said in a phone interview. According to its latest filing, Kubiak’s campaign reported having slightly more than $1,600 in cash on hand with $500 of unpaid campaign debt. Kubiak loaned that money his campaign to open a bank account.
While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
Billionaire George Soros is taking a stake in the Bernalillo County district attorney’s race, backing Raul Torrez with a $107,000 contribution to an independent expenditure committee. Soros made the donation May 26 to the newly created New Mexico Safety and Justice political action committee. That group reported spending $92,527 on media production and ad buys supporting Torrez and about $11,500 for polling ahead of Tuesday’s primary between Democrats Torrez and Edmund Perea. The super PAC has raised and spent more than Perea’s campaign. Most of the PAC money appears to have been spent on local radio spots, which feature Torrez speaking at rallies about his plans to reform the high-profile, sometimes controversial DA’s office in New Mexico’s most populous county.
New Mexico’s State Auditor is gearing up for the next step in clearing the backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits, or rape kits, throughout the state. State Auditor Tim Keller announced Thursday his office will conduct a statewide survey of law enforcement agencies and an audit of eight police agencies to get an idea of how rape kits are tested. “We are working with law enforcement agencies and stakeholders to shine a light on what changes are needed to eliminate the backlog and keep it from happening again,” Keller said in a statement. Last year Keller’s office found that there were over 5,000 untested evidence kits around the state. A majority of these were within the Albuquerque Police Department.