On January 4, Sam Bregman was appointed Bernalillo County District Attorney by Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham to serve out the remaining two years of the 4-year term of Raul Torrez who was elected Attorney General in 2022. When appointed, Bregman said he would serve only 2 years and not run for reelection.
BREGMAN DISCLOSES TO PRESS RUNNING FOR FULL TERM
On Thursday, June 29, a full 6 months after his appointment as District Attorney, Sam Bregman held a press conference to “update” the public on the District Attorney’s Office. The press conference was complete with a slide presentation on the city’s crime statistics as provided by the Albuquerque Police Department. The press conference was called to highlight the success of his office over his 6 months as District attorney.
Not withstanding the purpose and intent of the press conference, DA Sam Bregman was asked by the press if he intended to run for District Attorney in 2024. Bregman responded:
“Yes, I will be running for district attorney. When I got into this office, I was sincere in the sense that I didn’t think I would. But we have put things in place … that I believe are starting to make a difference. … I believe things are starting to get better when it comes to crime.”
BREGMAN ANNOUNCES FOR DISTRICT ATTTORNEY
On Friday, June 30, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman made it official and announced he was indeed running for a full 4 year term as District Attorney. In his announcement Bregman said this:
“Six months ago, I received the greatest honor of my professional career when Governor Lujan Grisham appointed me as District Attorney. … New Mexico, especially Albuquerque, has given me so much since I moved here many years ago. I received a great education here. I married my loving wife and raised an amazing family here. I have been able to serve our community through my work as an attorney and my time in public office here. And now, it is a true privilege to have the opportunity to serve our community once again in this role. When I was appointed to serve as District Attorney in January, I understand that I did so with the belief that I would not run for a full term. However, the past 6 months have created more opportunities for this office than I could have ever imagined. Whether it is being able to hire so many new attorneys to the office; or developing new procedures that make our office more efficient and effective; or being asked to serve as the chair of the Governor’s organized crime task force – I realized that we were just getting started with creating true reform in the office. I felt that leaving the District Attorney’s office, just as these reforms were getting started, would be tantamount to quitting. And I will never quit on the people of Bernalillo County.”
In his announcement, Bregman proclaims in the 6 months he has been District Attorney he has implemented reforms and procedures that have led to significant improvements, within the office including:
“Hiring of 35 new attorneys – more than double the number of attorneys hired in all of 2022
Nearly 60% of pre-trial detention motions being granted – the highest percentage since 2017
408 criminal indictments – there were a total of 601 in all of 2022
A criminal conviction rate of 66.7% – nearly 10% higher than in 2022”
The link to read the full, unedited campaign announcement is here:
“BLACK HAT” CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL MINUS THE “WHITE HORSE”
In addition to making a formal written announcement, Bregman released a campaign launch video on social media announcing he is running for a full 4-year term. The video is a slick 90 second campaign commercial outlining his accomplishments as District Attorney. In his campaign launch video, Bregman touts all the successes of the office since he was appointed and proclaims he has made a difference. Bregman says this:
“I took this job to fight crime. … I’m running for district attorney to protect my family and yours. …”
The Bregman commercial is more than little hoaky at times with Bregman wearing a large rimmed, black cowboy hat with a very serious look on his face as he is shown talking and giving directions to police officers and as he walks the streets of Albuquerque talking with his fans and supporters. At the end, Bregman stands with his arms crossed in front of police officers with a serious look on his face conveying the image that he means business. It is as if he was announcing he is the new sheriff in town. All that is missing from the commercial is Bregman riding a white horse wearing a six shooter on his hip and going to the rescue, but then again there is still time to work one into any future commercial. Not bad for someone who was born in Washington, DC.
On June 30, KOAT TV Channel 7 reported that using the Go Daddy search tool Who Is, it found that Bregman’s campaign website was registered on May 25. Bregman’s website shows he is already asking and taking donations of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500 or more. A search of the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website also shows he registered his campaign on June 1.
The link to Bregman’s web page is here:
The FACEBOOK link to Bregman For DA is here:
PROMISE NOT TO RUN RECALLED
On January 4 of this year when he was appointed by the Governor, Bregman said during a press conference, with law enforcement officials, United States Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez, Attorney General Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller, standing by his side he would not run in 2024 for DA. Bregman said this:
“It’s very liberating not to have to worry about politics, not to have to run a campaign starting next March … . I don’t have any problems [with that]. I can just focus on getting things done.”
At the time Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Bregman District Attorney she also said Bregman would not run for re-election. The Governor’s press release at the time said in part:
“Bregman will serve the remaining two years of the existing term. He will not run for re-election to the office, focusing on the office’s work to combat crime and build stronger, safer communities.”
On June 30, KOAT TV contacted the Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham’s Office office and asked if she expected Bregman to run. The Governor’s office did not answer the question but said this in a statement:
“Gov. Lujan Grisham wanted to make sure that whomever she appointed as Bernalillo County DA would be squarely focused on the work of the office, and not a re-election bid. In his first six months in office, DA Bregman has illustrated his commitment to fighting crime, resulting in a safer New Mexico. Our expectation is that he will continue that focus moving forward.”
Links to quoted news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Absolutely no one who knows and who has watched Sam Bregman over the years was shocked to hear that he has decided to run for a full term as District Attorney. The Governor’s press release in reaction to Bregman running and changing his mind was by all measures a cold shoulder reaction to his candidacy and it had no endorsement. The Governor did not wish him well in her press release which begs the question if Governor Lujan Grisham appointed Bregman in exchange for his commitment not to run for a full 4 year term in 2 years. Such a concession and agreement has happened before when Governor Lujan Grisham appointed Jim Collie Bernalillo County Commission for 2 years in exchange for his commitment not to seek a full 4 year term.
There is little doubt that DA Bregman’s change of heart and his announcement was an embarrassment to Governor Lujan Grisham. Ostensibly, Bregman did not give the Governor the proper courtesy of her office by telling her in a private meeting he had changed his mind and was running and going back on his promise. The Governor is known to have a little vindictive streak in her. The tone of her press release was no accident and makes her displeasure known to him. She is not at all above going out of her way to find a candidate to run against him, especially a Hispanic or a female. Before she appointed him, it was said she was a little uncomfortable with Bregman and wanted to appoint a female to the job, so much so that the application time period was extended that allowed others to apply.
It’s highly questionable that Bregman really was sincere when he told the Governor he would serve only 2 years and said he would not run for a full 4 year. Bregman is smart enough to know he became a lame duck or caretaker upon his appointment and would not be able to do much with the office over 24 months. It is more likely than not it was his intention from the get go from when he was appointed by the Governor.
The blunt truth is that it was ridiculous for the Governor to have asked Bregman to give up his private practice to serve only 2 years. The Governor owes Bregman more than he owes her and that was the reason for his appointment in the first place. Bregman was known to have campaigned heavily to get the Governor elected not once but twice, as he raised money for her and he donated as much as $10,000 to her campaign.
It is not at all likely voters will hold Bregman’s change of heart against him nor going back on whatever commitment he made to the Governor. Voter’s by and large are very forgiving of politicians going back on their word not to run and are more concerned about results.
The one thing that did come as a surprise to more than a few politicos is that he released a campaign announcement video and had already made up his mind back in May and registered with the Secretary of State’s Office as a candidate on June 1.
Bregman was able to keep his plans and intentions under wraps until it was reported exclusively on June 28 by www.PeteDinelli.com that Bregman had a get together for all of his staff at his home for a pool party around June 16 and that he told his deputies he intended to run for District Attorney next year. Bregman was said to have also told others that he had already begun to put his campaign together and that he had gone so far as to begin preparing TV commercials. It’s no secret that Bregman is financially well off having made a lucrative living as a high profile defense attorney and he is willing to spend it on a campaign.
No other person has declared a run for 2nd Judicial District Attorney, but then again, the primary is a full year off. Bregman’s early announcement no doubt was made to “clear the field” and to set himself up without opposition in next year’s June Democratic Party primary and perhaps run unopposed assuring an easy election.
JUNE 29 OFFICE UPDATE
Now that DA Sam Bregman has made it official that he is running for a full term, it fully explains why he held his June 29 press conference to give an update on the office and to highlight the successes of the office. The June 29 press conference was nothing more than a percussor to his June 30 announcement. For that reason, what he reported during his June 29 press conference merits review and analysis of his record over the last 6 months.
Bregman said the biggest challenge of the job thus far has been filing chronic attorney vacancy’s getting more prosecutors hired. Bregman said this:
“We needed more prosecutors when I got in this office. We now have hired 35 prosecutors in 6 months. In the entire last year, before this year in 2022, this office hired 12 total.”
Bregman said the total number of attorneys in the office is now at 97. Bregman says he hopes to hire up to 20 more lawyers. According to the 2023-2024 approved budget, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office is funded for 120 full time attorneys. The hiring up to 20 more lawyers will coincide with what the office is funded for in the current fiscal year which began on July 1, 2023.
He was able to accomplish the hiring with a very aggressive ad campaign, both in the bar bulletin sent to all licensed attorneys and TV commercials, that featured him promoting the office as a place to get trial experience and to serve the community.
With nearly 3 times more attorneys hired, Bregman said attorney caseloads have now been reduced. In the DA’s major crimes division, which prosecutes homicides, Bregman reported there are 365 open cases this year. For prosecutors dealing with cases ranging from car burglary to drug trafficking, Bregman said the average caseloads are now 30% less compared to 2022.
“The average number of open cases per attorney is 32, and the average number of homicide cases per attorney is 27….I can tell you anecdotally when I first got in here and this job, my understanding was homicide attorneys had around 50 cases a piece. … The reason these statistics are so important is because the more we bring in new attorneys, the more we unclog the bottleneck, the more opportunity for each attorney to spend on each case. Therefore, we’re doing better justice by making sure people are, in fact, taking the time necessary to prepare and present that case.”
INDICTMENTS, TRIALS AND CONVICTIONS
According to Bregman, the DA’s office indicted 408 felony criminal defendants from January through June, compared with 601 in the full year 2022. The District Attorney’s Office has tried 137 cases in the last 6 months with 88 of those trials resulting in convictions which translates into a nearly 65% conviction rate. Bregman noted in all of 2022 the office tried 57 felony cases with a 58% conviction rate.
DA Bregman spoke about his successes with pretrial detention motions, indictments and trials. Bregman said this:
“We’ve indicted, in the six months, 408 people. We’ve launched over 820 cases since we’ve been [in office], 800 and some felonies, let me add. And I’m very happy with that. Number of trials in this office: Felony trials in the entire year of 2022 was 57. In the six months in 2023, we’ve tried just about the same number in six months as we did all last year.”
Bregman touted funding for a pre-prosecution diversion program in his office which is designed and meant to keep people out of the criminal justice system. He said this about the program:
“We have literally just received one of the biggest grants they’ve ever given, the $580,000, for the diversion program, and that’s going to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. … We had 308 total active participants in this office last year. Today, in six months, we have 357 active participants.”
Bregman spoke about his Zero-Tolerance Policy towards guns on school campuses and the current caseload involving juveniles with guns. Bregman said this:
“We have juvenile cases involving a firearm just in 2023 of 150. We have 150 different cases in this community where juveniles were found with a firearm or used a firearm.”
Bregman spoke about the District Attorney’s Office focus on organized retail crime. Bregman said this:
“In the past, shoplifting cases that are misdemeanors are officer-prosecuted cases. … They will continue to prosecute misdemeanors; however, this office before and this has changed now. We are going to track, which we didn’t do before, every single person who is charged with shoplifting…We’re going to keep an eye on it. So, if they meet a certain threshold, we’re going to charge them with a felony; but let’s say they don’t meet that threshold, but they’re constantly shoplifting, we’re going to jump in those cases.”
DA Bregman repeated several times that his press conference was not a “victory lap” but he said the “needle on crime” is moving in the right direction. Standing in front of a rolling slide of mugshots of those detained, convicted, and sentenced by his office to dramatize his point, Bregman said this:
“I’m telling you, I believe things are starting to get better when it comes to crime in Bernalillo County.”
Bregman closed his news conference with a nod toward statistics provided by the Albuquerque Police Department and he said this:
“Robbery’s down by 53%, Homicides are down by 20%. Auto theft is down by 16%. Burglaries are down by 18%. Is this a victory lap? No. This is just the beginning.”
MORE PRETRIAL DETENTION MOTIONS FILED
Since 2019, judges had only been granting around half of all pretrial preventative detention motions. This year, those numbers are drastically up and more people are being held for trial in Bernalillo County.
Bregman said the DA’s office has stepped up filing “Pretrial Detention Motions”. The office is filing about 95 such motions a month, with an average of 60% being granted. Bregman said this:
“We file [pretrial detention motions] on the people that we believe are a threat to the safety of the community. … And we explain to the court why we’re doing things like bringing more witnesses to these hearings.”
On June 27, it was reported by KRQE News 13 that according to a report from the UNM Institute for Social Research, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is filing about 95 pretrial preventative detention motions a month this year. Research shows around 60% of them are granted.
According to the data, the number of pretrial preventative detention motions, which are used to keep suspected criminals behind bars until trial, is up by nearly 20% since last year and is about 50% higher than five years ago. While the percentage of motions granted is rising, the number of motions filed has remained steady over the past year.
In May, around 60% of these motions were granted. DA Sam Bregman credits this to his prosecutors doing things a little differently in the courtroom. Bregman explained it this way:
“We’re not filing pretrial detention motions on everybody. We’re not filing them, taking them for granted and just say, ‘Hey, detain him.’ These are people that need to be detained for the safety of the community, and I think this process is beginning to work and show some results.
We are focusing very heavily on the threat to the safety of the community. We are making sure that when we present our case, the court understands what a danger this person is to the community. …. We’re having actual witnesses attend these and bringing out testimony as opposed to just lawyers arguing. …
We are beginning to move the needle in this town when it comes to crime. I mean, it may not feel like it overnight, but I think if we continue to grind it out, we’ll get done what we need to get done.”
The report also shows last month the prison population at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) is nearly 15% higher than last year. However, Bregman said this isn’t their biggest concern:
“If people need to be incarcerated, and there’s more, so be it. We’re going to keep doing our job.”
Bregman said the work of his officer is far from over and he said this:
“I’m pleasantly encouraged, let me say that, but our work is not done. We’re not taking a victory lap. We are continuing to want to see those numbers go up.”
The report also showed about a quarter of offenders will be re-arrested within three months after release from MDC, and 35% within six months. The report said MDC has about 200 more inmates than it did in May of last year, and they’re staying an average of three days longer.
APD CRIME STATS
It was on Thursday, March 16, 2023 that Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina released the 2022 crime statistics along with crime statistics for 2021 for a comparison. According to Chief Medina there was 3% drop in the overall total of crime and stated it was a fueled by the 4% decrease in CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS (murder, rape, and assault) and the 2% drop in CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY (robbery, bribery, and burglary).
The slight 3% decrease in overall crime was over shadowed by a 24% spike in CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY (gambling, prostitution, and drug violations) and the dramatic 71% increase in murders over the last 6 years. In addition to reporting that there has been a 71% spike in homicides, Chief Medina also reported that over the past 6 years there has been a 28% increase in Aggravated Assaults which by definition includes the use of a firearms.
Links for quoted news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
District Attorney Sam Bregman can indeed point to and take credit for the changes he has made within his office as he runs for a full 4 year term. He can take legitimate credit for hiring more prosecutors, the office filing more indictments and having more trials, the successful prosecution of criminals and an increase in pretrial detentions. He is following through with promises he made to the general public when the Governor appointed him.
However, the statics DA Bregman reported by APD regarding the downward trend of homicides, robbery’s, auto theft was downright misleading. By using APD’s statistics, he gave the impression that the DA’s office had something do with the reduction in the city’s overall crime and to an extent he was taking credit for it.
The numbers are in fact reported incidents, offenses and cases investigated by APD before the cases are forwarded to the District Attorney for prosecution. The APD statistics have nothing to do with changes made by Bregman within his office over the last 6 months nor the prosecution of cases.