This is what you call poking the bear after you have been mauled and you are on life support.
The day after the November 16, 2017, hearing on Federal Monitor James Ginger’s sixth progress report regarding the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez filed a notice with the court asking for further “clarification” of his order.
The Court denied the City’s Motion to have an evidentiary hearing on whether Federal Monitor James Ginger is biased against the Albuquerque Police Department.
(See November 17, Albuquerque Journal, “City wants clarification on video edit ruling”)
One day before the November 1, 2017 release of the Federal Monitor’s sixth report, the City Attorney’s Office filed a motion challenging the impartiality of the Federal Monitor accusing the independent monitor in the reform effort of being biased against the department.
The city’s motion cited a lapel camera video recording made back in March, 2016 by Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman.
On November 16, 2017 the Federal Court held a hearing on the sixth monitor’s report.
The monitor’s report was again highly critical of APD and finding a “culture of accountability” markedly absent from APD.
After a daylong hearing Judge Robert Brack denied the City’s Motion requesting an evidentiary hearing to determine if the Monitor was biased against APD.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack in his ruling denying the motion found that Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman and the city tried to smear and discredit the independent monitor in an attempt to discredit the reform process itself.
In what amounted to a 20-minute, unrelenting public dress-down, Judge Brack said in open court, and in front of Assistant Chief Huntsman, APD Chief Gorden Eden and City Attorney Jessica Hernandez that the city, APD and Huntsman tried to deceive the Court, manipulated evidence and set up the Monitor in an attempt to discredit him.
The Court made a finding that the making a secret lapel camera recording of Federal Monitor Ginger on March 18, 2016 by APD Assistant Chief Huntsman violated the reform settlement agreement the city signed with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Judge Brack denied the city’s request for an evidentiary hearing without even allowing any argument by the City Attorney.
Brack said the city’s behavior amounted to an “attempt to undermine and intimidate the monitor”.
Judge Brack found that the city was playing a “political game” and said “This game is not acceptable.”
In saying that the city tried to deceive the court, Brack pointed out the October 31, 2017 motion filed by the city said the secret video of Ginger by Huntsman made with his lapel camera was nine minutes long.
Judge Brack found that the transcript of the video the city filed with the court represented nine minutes of video and not the full 14 minutes.
U.S. District Judge Robert Brack found that the City manipulated the lapel camera video conversation recorded by Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman between APD, the City Attorney and the Federal Monitor James Ginger back in March, 2016.
Judge Brack found that the City filed a different transcript version in court than what the city released to the news media and that an “edit” by the city was done to cast James Ginger in a negative light and make him appear biased against APD.
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said in her court filing that both the news media and the court received the same 14-minute video, which was just a segment of a longer video that police made of Ginger, some of which hasn’t been released.
The Federal Judge realized what the City did when he reviewed the transcript and compared it to the video and discovered the discrepancy between the video evidence and the arguments being made in the pleading which are not evidence.
Failing to disclose is just as good as lying, or at least misleading, which is something you never do to a Federal Judge or Court Official such as a Federal Monitor.
Perhaps City Attorney Jessica Hernandez and Assistant Chief Huntsman were so stunned by what the Court said at the conclusion of the daylong hearing that they did not listen to Judge Brack and the points he was making.
When Federal Judge Brack made his ruling from the bench, what he was referring to as an “edit” was the City’s intentional conduct of not transcribing the entire 14 minutes of the conversation and attaching a transcript of only the last 9 minutes of the conversation to the motion.
The City conveniently ignored and did not transcribe the first 5 minutes that lead up to the confrontation between the monitor and the City Attorney.
Deleting the first 5 minutes of the recording took the entire incident out of context and allowed the City to argue that the Federal Monitor was biased.
The Court also found that Deputy Chief Huntsman made sure he got his self-righteous comments that it was not a game so he could be recorded, all the while not telling the Monitor he was being recorded.
The City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman showed their absolute contempt for the Federal Court and authority over the Albuquerque Police Department by recording Federal Monitor James Ginger without his consent or knowledge.
The Federal Monitor Ginger is an officer of the court that reports directly to the Judge and represents the Judge.
Judge Brack found that the recording by Huntsman of the conversation was a violation of the consent decree and a violation of other applicable law.
The only rational for seeking clarification from the Federal Court on his ruling would be that the City is contemplating an appeal of the ruling
To appeal the Court’s ruling, the City would have to argue in part that there was abuse of discretion by the Judge.
The City Attorney is lucky she was not sanctioned and fined for her conduct.
The careers with the City by both City Attorney Jessica Hernandez and Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman are on life support seeing as that they will probably be replaced come December 1, 2017 when a new Mayor.
The desire to have further clarification from the Court is almost an invite to the Judge to refer the conduct of the City Attorney to the New Mexico Disciplinary Board for the State Bar of New Mexico.
Before she is no longer City Attorney, it would be wise for Jessica Hernandez to withdraw her request for further clarification from the Judge.