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.
A Republican State Senator and criminal defense attorney withdrew from a criminal case last month, citing media attention. She says the attention was solicited by the state Attorney General’s office. In her motion to withdraw, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, wrote that Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office “made false statements to the media” that interfered with her clients right to a fair trial. “The Office of the Attorney General has successfully made Ms. Torraco’s representation of the defendant a media centerpiece and it is impairing the defendant’s opportunity for a fair trial,” Torraco wrote. About a week after Torraco withdrew from the case, the AG’s office itself stepped aside and appointed special prosecutor Mark Drebing, former deputy for Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg (a Democrat).
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.
With a sometimes-tumultuous working relationship between the retiring Second Judicial District Attorney and the Albuquerque Police Department in recent years, focus will soon turn to how a new DA will work with police. All three candidates for DA are focused on how to build a relationship with APD, a troubled police department subject to reforms under a Department of Justice consent decree. Ed Perea, one of the two Democratic candidates seeking the position, is a former APD commanding officer and recently received an endorsement from the Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association. Perea’s campaign is focused on his experience in practicing law and supervising and working with officers. He said a DA must, first and foremost, be able to work with officers to make the community safer.
A newly selected New Mexico Representative may be under legal scrutiny even before she is officially sworn in. After admitting to voting before she was a U.S. citizen, Idalia Lechuga-Tena’s voting history appears to be under review by prosecutors in Bernalillo County. Earlier this week the Bernalillo County Commission voted in favor of appointing Lechuga-Tena to the New Mexico House of Representatives. Lechuga-Tena will be the second person appointed to the seat since the last election. The Bernalillo County Commission chose Stephanie Maez to replace Mimi Stewart last year.