EDITOR’S NOTE: On Saturday, March 5, the New Mexico Democratic Party will be holding their State Convention in Roswell, New Mexico and will be nominating candidates for statewide offices and officially placing candidates on the ballot who have already secured the required number of nominating petition signatures.
On Monday, May 17, Democrat Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced that he is running for New Mexico Attorney General. He joins Democrat New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colon who announced on May 14. Current New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is term limited and is finishing up his second term.
Both Colon and Torrez have secured enough nominating petitions and will appear on the June primary ballot. Gallup-based attorney Jeremy Michael Gay is seeking the Republican nomination for Attorney General. No Republican has been elected Attorney General since 1986.
TORREZ ANNOUNCEMENT FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL
In his announcement, Torrez, 45, had this to say:
“New Mexicans are looking for somebody who’s a fighter in the attorney general’s office and someone who has real experience to take on the job. If you look at the work that we’ve done inside the district attorney’s office, we’ve been able to secure additional resources, modernize that office, transform how it operates, bringing frankly new capabilities that no one had ever envisioned.
I think New Mexicans want bold leadership and tested leadership inside the AG’s Office. … I think they want someone who isn’t afraid to take on some of the toughest challenges we’ve got in the state.
Fundamentally, I believe we don’t have a system right now that provides adequate protections for the general public. … It’s undeniable that we’ve got a very serious public safety challenge in Albuquerque. … Violent crime is unacceptably high, murders are extraordinarily high.
But what we need right now are individuals with experience in different systems, and who have worked as prosecutors and police leaders, who can draw on ideas from around the nation and try and move this community in a new direction. And I think I bring that to the table.”
Links to news sources are here:
Raúl Torres was born and raised in Albuquerque. He is the son of long time Assistant United States Attorney for New Mexico Pres Torres. He is married to Nasha Torrez, who is also an attorney, and the couple have two teenage children.
Raul Torrez went to Sandia Preparatory School, graduated from Harvard University, went on to receive a master’s degree from the London school of Economics, and attained his law degree from Stanford University and went on to be a White House Fellow under President Barrack Obama before coming back to New Mexico to become an Assistant United States Attorney. In 2016, Torrez ran to for Bernalillo County District Attorney and succeeded District Attorney Kari Brandenburg who served as DA for 16 years. Torrez was elected to second term on November 5, 2020.
EXAMINNG THE RECORD OF RAUL TORREZ AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY
District Attorney Raul Torrez is very well known for his attacks on the criminal justice system to get elected to office proclaiming that it is “broken”,that he knows how to fix it and blaming others for his failures.
During his first term as Bernalillo County District Attorney, Raul Torrez attacked the New Mexico criminal justice system and judges on 3 major fronts:
FIRST: TORREZ BLAMED THE COURTS FOR “REVOLVING DOOR” HIGH VIOLENT CRIME RATES
Soon after being elected DA, Torrez began to blame the courts for the rise in violent crime rates saying that the “revolving door”is the courts fault. Four years ago, Torrez accused the District Court and the Supreme Court’s case management order (CMO) for being the root cause for the dramatic increase in crime and the dismissal of cases. The Supreme Court issued the order mandating disclosure of evidence within specific time frames and to expedite trial. Torrez challenged the case management order before the New Mexico Supreme Court and also took action against an individual judge claiming the judge was requiring too much evidence to prove that a defendant was too violent to be released with bond.
Less than six months after being sworn in as Bernalillo County District Attorney, Torrez had the DA’s Office issue a report that outlined the problems he perceived since the issuance by the Supreme Court of the Case Management Order (CMO). The main points of the DA’s 2016 report were that defense attorneys were “gaming”the systems discovery deadlines, refusing to plead cases, demanding trials or dismissal of cases when not given evidence entitled to under the law. The District Court did their own case review of statistics and found that it was the DA’s Office that was dismissing the majority of violent felony cases, not the courts.
SECOND: 65% COMBINED DISMISSAL, ACQUITTAL AND MISTRIAL RATES
In mid-2015 the Bernalillo County 2nd District Court began shifting from grand jury use to implementing “preliminary hearing” schedule. Raul Torrez was sworn in as District Attorney on January 1, 2017 and from day one he opposed the shift to preliminary hearings.
District Attorney Raul Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller wrote a joint letter to the New Mexico Supreme Court requesting it to intervene and stop the plans of 2nd Judicial District Court (SJDC) to shift away from the use of grand jury system to a preliminary hearing system.
The District Court provided an extensive amount of statistics, bar graphs and pie charts to the New Mexico Supreme Court to support the decision to shift from grand jury hearings to preliminary hearing showing it was necessary. The statistics revealed the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under Raul Torrez had a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries. The data presented showed in part how overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the District Attorney’s Office was contributing to the high mistrial and acquittal rates.
The Supreme Court responded to the Torrez-Keller letter refusing to intervene but urging District Attorney Torrez to work with the Bernalillo County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (BCCJCC) to resolve his concerns about ongoing cuts to the grand jury system.
THIRD: SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF PROOF
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez proposed a constitutional amendment that would create a “presumption” that a defendant is a threat to the public when charged with a violent crime and that they should be jailed until pending trial without bond or conditions of release. The presumption would shift the burden of proving dangerousness from the prosecution and require defendants accused of certain crimes to show and convince a judge that they should be released on bond or conditions of release pending their trial on the charges.
According to Torrez, the cases where a defendant would be required to show they do not pose a threat to public and should be released pending their trial would include “the most violent and serious cases” such as murder, first-degree sexual assault, human trafficking, first-degree robbery, crimes involving a firearm and defendants who are on supervision or parole for another felony. Such a shift of burden of proof could conceivably require a defendant to take the stand during a detention hearing before their trial and a waiver of their 5th Amendment Constitutional Right against self-incrimination.
UNM STUDY OF “PRESUMPTION OF NO BAIL” CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
It was in July, 2019 that The University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research studied and reviewed the proposal by DA Torrez to change by constitutional amendment the way pretrial detention is handled in New Mexico. The final report was prepared by Paul Guerin the director of UNM’s Center for Applied Research and Analysis. The study called into serious question the effectiveness and outcomes to change the way pretrial detention is handled in New Mexico thereby discrediting the arguments made by District Attorney Raul Torrez.
The UNM study found no evidence that Torrez’s proposal would improve public safety. Based on a review of cases in which a defendant was released despite the DA’s requesting detention, Guerin found that preventive detention motions filed by the District Attorney’s office did not have “substantively” improved public safety as opposed to those cases in which no detention motions were filed.
Guerin’s study report recommends that the rebuttable presumption proposal be scaled way back by saying:
“If rebuttable presumption use is limited to cases in which defendants are charged with offenses punishable by life imprisonment, and other pretrial detention decisions are left to judges’ discretion and informed by risk assessment tools like the PSA, they can ensure reputation protection [for the criminal justice system] and align with national standards without undermining public safety. ”
Guerin cited research showing that a defendant’s current charge alone does not predict involvement in future dangerous crimes. He reported that some of the offenses or statutes the DA lists in his pretrial detention proposal “are arguably questionable indicators of dangerousness.”
The UNM study looked at more than 7,000 cases filed from July 2017 to August 2018 as part of the review. There were 1,500 cases that had preventive detention motions filed by the District Attorney’s Office. Of those preventive detention motions, 46% were granted and 54% were denied.
The review found no substantial differences in failure to appear and in new criminal activity rates between defendants for whom the DA did not request detention and those who were released despite the DA’s requesting detention. In all, the study found that 17% of those denied cases picked up a new charge. Only 2.9% more of those defendants in denied motions failed to appear in court, and only 2% more picked up new charges.
EMBOLDEN BY BEING ELECTED TO SECOND TERM
On November 2, 2020, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez was elected to a second term. He ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary and in the general election. Torrez became embolden with his election to a second term to the point of deciding to run for Attorney General. He also renewed his advocacy of a “rebuttable presumption of violence” system for pretrial detention. He lobbied heavily for the New Mexico legislature to enact enabling legislation and securing the support of Governor Michell Lujan Grisham and Mayor Tim Keller.
LEGISLATIVE FINANCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS “REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF DANGEROUSNESS”
In preparation of the 2022 legislative session, the highly influential Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) released a 14-page memo analysis of the proposed “rebuttable presumption of violence” system and pretrial detention. LFC analysts found that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates have more to do with rising violent crime rates than releasing defendants who are awaiting trial.
The LFC report called into serious question if violent crime will be brought down by using a violent criminal charge to determine whether to keep someone accused of a crime in jail pending trial. According to the LFC report, rebuttable presumption is “a values-based approach, not an evidence-based one.” The LFC report said that while crime rates have increased, arrests and convictions have not. The LFC went on to say the promise of “swift and certain” justice has a more significant impact on crime rates that rebuttable presumption does not.
A major result of the Legislative Finance Committee report was that legislators rejected all “pretrial detention” legislation which would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with certain violent crimes to be held in jail pending trial . Rebuttable presumption shifted the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial. The “rebuttable presumption of being violent” legislation was substituted with legislation and then incorporated in House Bill 68 and that focuses on ankle-monitoring data of defendants released from custody as they await trial.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY TORREZ POUTS LIKE A CHILD NOT GETTING WHAT HE WANTS
During the 2022 New Mexico 30-day session that ended on Thursday, February 17, all legislation failed to enact the rebuttable presumption of being violent to permit jailing until trial. However, as a substitute, the legislature enacted a bill that requires the courts to turn over GPS monitoring data to police and prosecutors during a criminal investigation to allow better tracking of pretrial defendants on electronic monitoring. The goal of the GPS monitoring is keep close tabs on a charged defendant to prevent them l from committing another crime.
After the session ended, Torrez expressed no confidence in the bill. Torrez went out of his way to make the rounds with the media to say his biggest disappointments was the failure to pass the pre-trial detention bill. Torrez pouted like a child after not getting what he wanted and had this to say:
“The [legislature failed] to address the problem of the revolving door, specifically with regard to some of the most violent and dangerous defendants that we’ve got. People accused of murder, sexual assault, child abuse. Individuals who have been armed with firearms. … I’m concerned that we will once again see individuals who we have sought to have detained who have been released who will then go on to commit very serious crimes.”
The bottom line is the provision on GPS actually makes our jobs more difficult. It narrows the categories of defendants we can seek information on and it creates a privacy right for defendants who are considered to be in custody while they’re on GPS.”
When Torrez complains about the “GPS” monitoring system, he is complaining about the crime bill passed where the courts are required to turn over GPS monitoring data to police and prosecutors during a criminal investigation to allow better tracking of pretrial defendants on electronic monitoring in an effort to prevent a charged defendant awaiting trial from committing another crime. It mandates that prosecutors must prove “reasonable suspicion”, the very lowest burden required, before data can be turned over. Torrez and DA’s throughout the state demanded the the Governor veto the language in the bill.
The reaction of DA Torrez to the “reasonable suspicion” language contained in the enacted legislation, can only be characterized as “pathetic pouting” like not getting what he wanted in the first place. Instead of giving any effort to try and make it work, DA Torrez simply wanted the Governor to veto it, His lobbying effort is an acknowledgement that he does not know how to do his job. He was upset with the legislature’s refusal to enact his coveted “rebuttable presumption of violence” legislation.
Prosecutors like Torrez are always looking for ways to blame their failures on the courts and finding ways to allow them to ignore constitutional rights that will make their job the easiest without having to go to court. This coming from a supposedly experienced trial attorney whose primary job is to go to court. It’s obvious that the District Attorneys like Raul Torrez want to be able to conduct “fishing expeditions” on the whereabouts of any and all defendants on ankle bracelets and on any and all types of cases not just those charged with violent crimes. They do not want any court involvement as is required with “reasonable suspicion” language in the bill.
DA Torrez’s argument that the legislation “creates a privacy right for defendants” is about as bogus as it gets. The truth is that as written, no “privacy rights” are being created. What is being created is a system where prosecutors and law enforcement must give very bare minimum reasons why they want the information in the first place.
TORREZ FALSE CLAIMS OF LACK OF RESOURCES
The Bernalillo County District Attorney Office is the largest prosecuting firm in the State of New Mexico employing 315 full time employees including attorneys, paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance divisions. Since being elected District Attorney the first time in November, 2016 Torrez each year has strongly complained to the New Mexico legislature about the lack of resources his office has.
It was in August, 2018, DA District Attorney Raul Torrez strongly complained about and aggressively opposed reducing the grand jury time available by the District Courts and its shifting to more preliminary hearing arguing it would make launching new criminal cases far more challenging and far more resource intensive.
According to Torrez, preliminary hearings are more financially and administratively burdensome for the District Attorney’s office and a drain on resources the office does not have to channel more cases through the process. District Attorney Raul Torrez’s went so far as to proclaim that his office simply did not have the resources to do preliminary hearings and said at the time:
“You’re still not tackling the fundamental resource question … This is not the time to mess with a good thing”.
The blunt truth is that Torrez was and has always has been a failure in tackling the resource problem himself, even after he secured significant funding increases for his office by shaming the New Mexico Legislature for not doing their part in adequately funding his office.
2018 FUNDING INCREASE REVISTED
During the 2018 legislative session, DA Torrez lobbied for and received a $4.2 million increase in total funding for the office with legislator’s buying into Torrez claims of lack of resources. Effective July 1,2018, Torrez was given a $21.5 million-dollar budget to run the office. The office was budgeted fully and funded 315 full time positions. At the time, more than half of the District Attorney’s $21. 5 million budget was dedicated to salaries with the budget for salaries at $13,523,842.35. The problem is of the 315 full positions funded, only 260 positions were actually filled by Torrez. Despite the spike in funding and DA Torrez’s constant complaining that his office did not have enough resources, Torrez had 55 fully funded vacant positions.
2022 FUNDING AND PERSONNEL RESOURCES
Fast forward to January, 2022. As of January 11, 2022 Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez has a $27,778,800 million operating budget, a whopping $6.2 million more than in 2018. Of the $27,228,800, $16,890,059, well over half, is dedicated to salaries. The office employs attorneys, paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance divisions. As of January 11, 2022, the office is budgeted for 332 full time positions with 285 of those positions “active”, meaning filled, and with the office having an alarming 47 vacancies. The number of vacancies Torrez has in his office is larger than some other DA’s offices in the state that could use the resources.
All attorneys within the office are “at will” at serve at the pleasure of the District Attorney. As of January 11, 2022, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office employs the following number of attorneys:
27 Deputy District Attorneys paying $91,561.60 yearly
28 Senior Trial Attorneys paying $82,867.20
25 Trial Attorneys paying $75,004.80 a year
12 Assistant Trial Attorneys paying $67,891.210 a year
47 VACANCIES IDENTIFIED
According to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, there are 16 vacant attorney positions within the DA’s Office. Those fully funded, Vacant paying positions and salaries are as follows:
1 Chief Deputy District Attorney position paying $101,171 yearly
2 Deputy District Attorney positions paying $91,561 yearly
2 Senor Trial Attorney position paying $82,867 yearly.
8 Trial Attorney positions paying $75,004 yearly salary
6 Assistant Trial Attorney positions paying $67,891 yearly
In addition to the vacant attorney positions, other noteworthy positions fully funded but vacant are as follows:
1 Lead Investigator position paying $75,004 yearly
1 Program Administrator $67,891 yearly
2 Senior Investigator positions paying $56,929
1 Program Specialist $51,521
1 legal assistant supervisor $51,521
6 legal secretary positions vacant each paying $34,569
The link to the New Mexico State Government Portal to review all filled positions with names and salaries paid and all vacant positions is here:
MIXED REVIEWS ON CASE MANGEMENT
During his 5 years as District Attorney, Raul Torrez has had a number of major negligent management issues relating to cases his office has handled.
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.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE BACKLOG
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.
INDICTING AN INNOCENT MAN
In March, 2017, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez announced and took credit for his office indicting 15 young people, ages 20 to 28, on gang related racketeering and other charges in the spring 2017. The RICO indictment was based upon an investigation of an alleged gang which APD said had started out tagging the area around West Central and escalated to committing violent crimes. District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a news conference calling the defendants “members of one of Albuquerque’s more notorious street gangs.”
On Sunday, August 18, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal reported on its front page that one of the young men indicted was 20-year-old Adan Perez-Macias. It was reported he was not a member of the gang APD was investigating or any other gang. It turns out Adan Perez Marcus did not know and never met the others indicted. Perez Marcus was not even in New Mexico at the time the crime he was accused of committing.
District Attorney Raul Torrez labeled the wrongful indictment of Perez-Macias as “unfortunate” and said it could have happened in any case his office handled.
When discussing the wrongful indictment of Perez Marcus, Torrez said “We can be smart and be effective as institutions. We make mistakes and we learn from these mistakes and improve.” Torrez had no apology, no expression of empathy and no offer of help to 20-year-old Adan Perez Marcus. When DA Raul Torrez says it’s all about justice for victims, he apparently does not believe innocent people are entitled to justice nor any kind of an apology for being wrongfully accused by his office for crimes.
VICTORIA MARTENS MURDER
The most egregious mishandling of a prosecution case by District Attorney Raul Torrez involved the August 24, 2016 murder of ten-year-old Victoria Martens whose was killed and her body dismembered and then burned in the apartment bathtub where she was killed in an apparent attempt to dispose of her body. Initially, Jessica Kelly and Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, and Michell’s boyfriend Fabian Gonzales, were arrested and charged for the rape, murder and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria. District Attorney Raul Torrez personally took over the prosecution of the case.
On June 29, 2018 District Attorney Raul Torrez announced he negotiated a plea agreement where Michelle Martens plead guilty to child abuse of her daughter Victoria Martens. The plea agreement negotiated was to 1 count of child abuse, recklessly caused, resulting in the death of a child under 12. The plea agreement guaranteed a 12 to 15-year prison sentence and dropped the most egregious charges of murder and rape. With the plea deal, Michelle Martens faced a possible sentence of 12-15 years, and with good time she could be out of jail within 6 to 7 years.
Torrez also announced several charges against Fabian Gonzales were dismissed. District Attorney Raul Torrez said that much of the initial facts of the case were “simply not true”, yet Torrez had previously persisted in holding news conferences. The murder charge was dropped, but Gonzales is still charged with child abuse and tampering with evidence. He was released from jail in November, 2019. The trial for Fabian Gonzales is now set to begin on January 3, 2022, according to court documents filed on May 17, 2021. His trial is expected to last three weeks from January 3 through January 21, 2022.
The initial APD police investigation and reports alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens watched the murder. During a press conference, Torrez stated that his office’s investigation found Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes when forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder and did not participate in the murder.
Raul Torrez had held a press conference after press conference after press conference in the case, including private meeting with the Journal Editors and reporters at the Journal Center. He had more than 3 front page Journal stories on the case and was interviewed by Chanel 4 on the “Eye on Albuquerque” Sunday program on plea agreements he has negotiated in the case.
District Attorney Raul Torrez in his various media interviews shared extensive details of the case and prosecution strategy on the pending criminal prosecution against two other defendants, two identified and one yet to be found. During a January 4, 2019 pretrial motion hearing, District Judge Charles Brown determined District Attorney Raúl Torrez had been “reckless” in his December 10, 2018 statement he made to the media about defendant Jessica Kelley’s absence of cooperation before her no contest plea.
On January 4, 2018, District Judge Brown said that Torrez should not have issued the December 10, 2018 statement at all. Judge Brown admonished Raul Torrez for the statement by stating from the bench in open court:
“I don’t know if it was [intentionally done] to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, or if the goal was to shift the light away from the District Attorney’s Office or to move light to the Albuquerque Police Department … I find it to be woefully inaccurate in its ambiguity. It could be interpreted in many ways – all of them positive to the District Attorney’s office, some to the detriment of others. The District Attorney also has an obligation to protect the due process right of the defendant. … [The District Attorney] … represents the state, which is everyone including the defendant and the defendant’s families … The District Attorney’s obligation is to the system.”
FEDERAL JUDGE FINDS PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT BY TORREZ
District Attorney Raul Torrez is constantly emphasizing that he is a career prosecutor and not a career Politian. He emphasizes that in addition to serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for New Mexico for 2 and a half years, he has worked a prosecutor in the Valencia County District Attorney’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office and served one year stint as a White House fellow. He repeatedly talks about the experience he has in both state and federal courtrooms.
One thing for certain is that Torrez avoids talking about is the fact that in 2012, United States Federal Judge Cristina Armijo accused him as Assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting a drug case of trying to “unfairly alter” a transcript of a recorded encounter between drug agents and an Amtrak train passenger suspected of carrying a large quantity of crack cocaine.
In ruling in the drug case Torrez was prosecuting, Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo found that the charged defendant had been “coerced” into submitting to a search by federal two drug agents. But heeding the U.S. Attorney’s Office request, she removed a paragraph that appeared in her original order:
“Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the Government attempted to unfairly alter the content of the official transcript and thus the substance of what is purported to be represented on the audio recording in the case. Specifically, the Court finds that the Government attempted to take advantage of the obviously poor quality of the audio recording and the chaotic environment in the train car by having its witnesses … make substantive changes to the official transcription of the recording in a manner that favored the government’s case.”
She also deleted other language that faulted the testimony of the two drug agents during the suppression hearing as being “colored or influenced by the government’s efforts.”
The day after Armijo filed her amended ruling in January 2013, the United States Attorney office dismissed the felony drug possession case against the Defendant.
It is unknown if Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo referred the matter to the State of New Mexico Disciplinary Board in that such a referral is strictly confidential.
ALTERING A TRANSCRIPT
At the center of the transcript controversy was that Torrez asked 2 Federal law enforcement agents to review a transcript of a recording that was found “inaudible”. Instead of calling them as witnesses to testify under oath, Torrez asked the federal agents to make changes to the transcript based on their recollection of what was said and what occurred. Torrez then made a new transcript that combined their changes and informed the judge during the hearing that he wasn’t offering it as evidence but an “aid” for listening to the recording. Defense counsel objected, telling the judge “They’re trying to make an illegal search legal by making changes in the transcript.” The court agreed and entered the order. Torrez ultimately withdrew the revised transcript from consideration.
Torrez in a May 9, 2016 Albuquerque Journal report said he there was a “misunderstanding” of a transcript he initially offered at the hearing on a defense motion to suppress evidence. He said he never intentionally tried to mislead anyone. He had this to say:
“I could have done a better job … but I had no idea there were going to be any kind of findings [from Judge Armijo] … I was pretty surprised and upset [at Judge Armijo’s’ ruling] … I’m pretty protective of my professional reputation. I’ve worked extremely hard both in school and my professional life. And the idea that I would jeopardize all of that, and my law license, for a drug case? That, frankly … doesn’t make any sense.”
As for the problems in preparing the evidence, Torrez gave the excuse that he “had 50 other cases going on [at the time].”
UNCONFIRMED VOLUNTARY RESIGNATION OR TERMINATION
Torrez resigned six months after the incident in 2013 to work as a civil attorney in private practice in Albuquerque. Torrez then became a candidate in 2016 for Bernalillo County District Attorney. Torrez said he was never disciplined nor asked to leave the U.S. Attorney’s Office and said his departure was unrelated to the case.
The United States Attorney’s Office for its part has never disclosed the reasons why Torrez left and the office has declined to make any comment, saying it was a “personnel matter”.
Kenneth Gonzales, who was U.S. attorney in New Mexico at the time of the case and is now a U.S. district judge, referred the Journal to “the publicly-filed briefs” and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Steve Yarbrough, who was first assistant U.S. attorney and signed the court motion asking the judge to withdraw her remarks about Torrez, declined to comment. He became a U.S. magistrate.
One thing that is for certain is that if Torrez really wants to eliminate any and all questions regarding his departure from the Department of Justice, he could request a copy of his personnel records and then release his personnel records for examination by the public.
Every state elected official must take an oath of office that they “will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution and laws of this state, and that they will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of their office to the best of their ability”.
The Office of New Mexico Attorney General historically is considered by many as the “people’s attorney.” Elected Attorney Generals have gone onto higher office including Toney Anaya who was later elected Governor, Jeff Bingaman who was later elected United States Senator and Tom Udall who was also later elected United States Senator. All three emphasized and took great pains to look out for the little guy and especially the consumer and the less fortunate. Attorney Generals Paul Bardacke, Patsy Madrid and Hector Balderas during their tenures as Attorney General all took great pains to advocate for the general good of the public.
As the “people’s attorney”, an Attorney General must do all that is possible to “preserve, protect and defend” our constitutional rights including civil rights and voting rights among them. The Office of attorney general should never be used to undermine the rights of “presumption of innocence until proven guilty and due process of law”. An Attorney General must be fully committed and dedicated to proving guilt based on hard evidence and not speculation in order to put violent offender behind bars.
Raul Torrez advocating “rebuttable presumption” in order to hold a charged defendant in jail pending trial is nothing more than Torrez preying on the worst fears of the general public to get elected. Torrez ostensibly doe not see the problem that “rebuttable presumption” and his very biased advocacy is an affront to the oath of office he took. Torrez’s repeated attacks on the judiciary for the last 6 years and constant harping that the judicial system is broken reflects political opportunism at its very worse.
The criminal justice system in this country and this state has never been perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is not broken. The criminal justice system does have its flaws and a number of inequities, but to say that it is a broken system is just plain ignorance or political opportunism at its worst. The criminal justice system at all levels is only as good as those who are responsible to make it work and succeed. It is way too easy to declare the system “broken” when problems identified within the criminal justice system would go away if the stakeholders would just do their own jobs and concentrate on doing their jobs in a competent manner.
When it comes to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, he has been a failure at doing his own job as District Attorney not only in prosecuting cases but managing the resources he has been given. Torrez now says he wants to take his “blame game career” state wide.
Simply put, Raul Torrez is a very bad fit to be the next “people’s attorney” for the State of New Mexico.