For the second time within a week, a very negative news report regarding the mishandling of a domestic violence case by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office has been reported.
Both news stories call into serious question the management of the office by District Attorney Raul Torrez.
There have also been a few very small acts of pettiness by Raul Torrez within the office.
CHANNEL 4 INVESTIGATES REPORT
According to a February 20, 2019 Channel 4 Investigates Report, an imposter “scammed the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office” falsely claiming she was a victim in a case.
The imposter demanded the charges dropped against the violent defendant and that he be released from jail.
Below is the link to the Channel 4 report:
According to the news report, the Defendant Freddie Trujillo pled guilty in a 2017 aggravated assault case.
Originally, Trujillo was placed on probation but in December 2018, Trujillo was jailed for violating his probation.
Trujillo violated his probation when he physically attacked his estranged relatives, David and Mary Ann Baca.
Trujillo was arrested after the attack on his relatives and jailed.
One month later Trujillo was released from jail after the District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against him.
The DA’s office dropped the charges when a woman apparently claiming to be the victim Mary Anne Baca walked into the courthouse and demanded the charges be dropped.
The only problem is the woman was an imposter and the DA’s office fell for the scam.
David and Mary Ann Baca were shocked that Freddie Trujillo was released and questioned why nobody at the District Attorney Office bothered to check if the woman claiming to be the victim really was the victim.
David Baca expressed outrage when he confronted someone, presumably a prosecutor, at the DA’s office and told them:
“How dare you release someone – I [said] … don’t you have anything in [your office policies] … that says look we’re going to have to check your ID to make sure you’re the victim or you’re the assailant … And he said ‘we have nothing in [our policies] … .”
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to Ch 4 Investigates that there is no office policy that requires a person to show their identification to confirm they are the victim in a pending case or a case about to be dismissed.
DA Torrez declined to be interviewed by Channel 4 preferring to have the office Public Information Officer issue a statement that the incident was being investigated.
The Public Information Officer sent Channel 4 Investigates the following statement:
“Unfortunately, the criminal justice system currently lacks both the staff and the infrastructure to enforce a strict policy requiring every participant in the process to prove their identity. Moreover, the rigid application of that type of policy can create unnecessary barriers for many traumatized victims who must trust and communicate with our prosecutors on a regular basis. While this type of fraud is extraordinarily rare we have a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of the system and we will pursue any legal action necessary to deter this type of misconduct in the future.”
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that an investigation is underway to identify the imposter and will determine if the imposter will face charges.
What is problematic for Torrez is the fact that he has repeatedly blamed judges for the release of violent, repeat offenders, yet it was his office that released violent repeat offender Freddie Trujillo.
Channel 4 Investigates repeatedly requested to speak with District Attorney Raul Torrez on the issue.
When Torrez refused to do an interview, the reporter went out of the way to report how Torrez has an extensive history doing media interviews to report actions of his office, but declined Channel 4 Investigates an on-camera interview on the case.
CHANNEL 13 REPORT
According to a February 14, 2019 Channel 13 news story, an anonymous tipster within the District Attorney’s office sent News 13 pictures of stacks of domestic violence cases piled up on a table in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.
Below is the link to the story:
The photos were of 3 stacks of roughly 500 domestic violence case reports.
Each one of the domestic violence reports were linked to a domestic violence victim left waiting from 2 to 5 months without hearing anything after calling police reporting misdemeanor domestic violence crimes including assault, theft and restraining order violations.
Torrez went on camera with Channel 13, but only after a week had passed giving him time to clear out the backlog.
District Attorney Raul Torrez explained the stacks of reports were made up of “criminal summons” cases where police did not arrest anyone for various reasons such as suspects had already left the scene of the crime.
Torrez acknowledged that victim advocates before would call people who reported domestic violence cases within 2 weeks compared with an average of 2 months to 5 months because there use to be more investigators and victim advocates working the cases for his office.
Torrez proclaimed on camera:
“Right now, there is no backlog … The question for us, though, is how do we sustain this over the long-run? We obviously have to move faster … It’s obviously disappointing to me to have that kind of delay … Every single case that comes into the office and every single victim of crime in the community deserves to get immediate attention.”
According to Torrez taking quick action on court cases is one of the best ways to deter someone from committing more crimes in the future.
District Attorney Raul Torrez’s explanation for the domestic violence case backlog was revealing when he said:
“We moved some of those resources into the felony side of the office so that we could increase the case speed on those most violent and dangerous offenders”.
Torrez said focusing resources to move fast on the few repeat offenders responsible for the majority of crime is working to drop the overall number of criminal cases in Bernalillo County.
DA Raul Torrez went on to tell News 13 that he has requested another budget increase this year from the 2019 Legislature put in another budget increase for more investigators and victim advocates.
Torrez failed to disclose to Channel 4 that he has 44 fully funded vacancies within his office that he has failed to fill over the past year despite his repeated complaints of lack of staff.
The 44 vacant positions include 11 vacant “at will” attorney positions, 15 classified legal secretary positions and 2 victim/witness positions (victim advocates).
For more on the vacancies and a link to the State’s Sunshine portal listing names, salaries and vacancies see:
ONE VERY PETTY BUT REVEALING ACT
Confidential sources within the District Attorney’s Office claim that District Attorney Raul Torrez is aloof with office personnel.
They have also said Torrez is obsessed with his news coverage and how he appears on camera during interviews and press conferences.
Confidential sources within the office complain he wants to make sure every Attorney within the office knows he is the current District Attorney and he is the one in charge, which is normal for any executive, but constantly reminding subordinates is not.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office was named after Steve Schiff by the Bernalillo County Commission after he passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer.
The outside of the building bears the name “The Steve Schiff Building”.
Over 18 years ago after the dedication of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, the photos of all the past elected Bernalillo District Attorney’s where found and framed using taxpayer money and the photos were exhibited for historical reasons.
The photos were exhibited in a small room area immediately south of the front desk entry, behind the metal detector screening area.
In the dedication area for the building is a bronze bust of former United States Congressman Steve Schiff who also served as Bernalillo County District Attorney.
An act that was considered by office personnel as sure pettiness and a sign of jealousy was when District Attorney Raul Torrez ordered the removal without any explanation of all the photographs of all past elected District Attorneys that also had their dates of service.
According to sources, dedication plaques to long time serving attorneys for the office who have passed, Deputies Joe Paone and Chris Lackman, have also been removed from conference rooms dedicated to their memory.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The publication of both news stories by two separate news stations within a week is an indication that the news media is not as enamored with Torrez as they once were.
At least two news stations are now willing to report on his office management problems without giving him the benefit of the doubt.
In other words, after over two years in office, the honeymoon is over with the news media.
In both news stories, District Attorney Raul Torrez blamed to some extent the lack of resources or lack of personnel for the problems associated with the cases and his office.
This coming from the very District Attorney who last year was given a huge increase in his office budget.
According to the New Mexico State Sunshine Portal, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office is fully funded for 319 full time positions with a personnel budget of $14,529,202.
Even though the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has 319 fully funded positions, only 275 are filled with 44 vacant positions listed as not being filled by Raul Torrez.
The budget increase included funding for more staff yet after a full year Torrez still has a major problem filling positions that are vacant.
Torrez is the very same DA who likes to take credit for reduction in crime statistics at functions he speaks at such as the Albuquerque Economic Forum.
Torrez has a bad habit of never taking management responsibility for what happens when cases in his office fall apart, or are dismissed, especially in high profile cases such as the prosecution in the murder case of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.
Within six months after being elected, Torrez had his office prepare a report on the statistics regarding the number of felony cases that were being dismissed by the District Court.
Torrez accused the District Court for being responsible for the rise in Albuquerque crime rates and releasing violent offenders pending trial.
District Attorney Raul Torrez also accused defense attorneys of “gaming the system” in order to get cases dismissed against their clients.
A subsequent report prepared by the District Court revealed that it was actually the District Attorney’s office that was in fact voluntarily dismissing far more felony cases for various reasons, including his office not being prepared for trial, the office’s failure to meet discovery deadlines, and prosecutors failure to turn evidence over to defense counsel as mandated by law and discovery court orders.
You can read a report here:
Raul Torrez now probably knows members of his own staff are on to him, do not like his management of the office and they are willing to leak information to the press to force him to be held accountable for his bad management decisions.
All too often elected officials believe the offices they hold means they can do whatever they want, not realizing how short their tenure can be if they are not careful with how they treat people and how they perform in office after elected.
All too often, elected officials quickly find it is easier to run for office than to hold office and make difficult decisions and fall into the trap of governing by campaigning to keep a good image.
If things continue as they are for District Attorney Raul Torrez with more bad stories reflecting poor management of cases on his part, he needs to make sure he gives to his successor a nice photo shot of himself.
His photo can then be exhibited with all the photos of his predecessors he has ordered taken down, if those photos can be found, not destroyed or thrown away by Torrez.