Candidate For Bernalillo County District Attorney Matthias Swonger Weighs In On APD-DWI Bribery Scandal; No Candidate For District Attorney Has Called For Grand Jury Investigation Of APD Bribery/Dismissal DWI Scandal; All 3 Likely Waiting For Feds To Indict Ignoring APD Doing Its Own Investigation That Could Be Relied Upon For State Charges

The APD bribery scandal involving the dismissal of 198 DWI Cases by District Attorney Sam Bregman has become an issue in the race for Bernalillo County District Attorney.  Candidates DA Sam Bregman and former US Attorney  Damon Martinez have commented on the scandal. (See related blog article in postscript.) There is a third trial attorney seeking the Democratic nomination for Bernalillo County District Attorney with the Democratic primary to be held on June 4. The third attorney is  Matthias Swonger who is a criminal defense attorney with the New Mexico Public Defender’s Office.


On Sunday, January 28, Matthias Swonger released the following press release for publication on this blog:

The corruption scandal allegedly involving APD DWI officers and a private defense attorney has brought new urgency to the DA race. It is not hyperbolic to say that the public’s already precarious trust in the criminal justice system and legal profession has been severely damaged. The outcome of the DA race will have far reaching consequences for the future of the entire legal community and the community at large.

SAM BREGMAN represents a continuation of the status quo that is unacceptable. Much of his career prior to becoming DA involved defending officers in criminal and misconduct matters, and as DA he has only reduced transparency and accountability by removing the names of officers with credibility issues from the DA’s website. His office apparently failed to rigorously track their cases in a way that would have allowed them to raise the alarm when DWI cases continued to be dismissed due to officer non-appearances. Mr. Bregman’s failure to hold wrongdoers within the system accountable and the fact that the attorney being investigated in the corruption scandal donated one thousand dollars to Mr. Bregman’s campaign raise serious doubts that Mr. Bregman can rise to the task of restoring trust in our criminal justice system.

DAMON MARTINEZ is likewise an out of touch career political insider whose involvement in APD reform efforts as US Attorney and as an employee of APD where he was responsible for writing APD policies, has failed to uncover the corruption at APD. To the extent that Mr. Martinez has articulated a platform for his candidacy, he plans to double down on the failed war on drugs and to seek longer prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses. He is a non-starter for many progressives and people of color because of his role in overseeing a sting operation that primarily targeted racial minorities for low level offenses while he was serving as US Attorney. 

In these difficult times, when our community is shaken by scandal and mistrust of the government and the criminal justice system are understandably rampant, we cannot afford to have either of these individuals represent the interests of the State in criminal proceedings in Bernalillo County.

I’ve spent the past 11 years working as an attorney with the public defender’s office, working on the front lines to bring our impacted communities the justice and support they deserve. Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed the values of our community in action – I know that we all aspire to live in a safe, fair, and inclusive community where everyone is valued and treated fairly. I am the only candidate who is a political outsider, and the only candidate running on a platform of meaningful reform. The issues we face demand fresh ideas and a new leader at the DA’s office who will prioritize the safety and wellbeing of everyone by implementing evidence-based policies that will keep our communities safe and address the underlying causes of crime.  


On January 19 the FBI raided the homes of three APD officers and the office DWI defense attorney Thomas Clear III who are allegedly involved in a bribery and conspiracy scheme spanning a decade to dismiss DWI cases. Five cops, including one lieutenant, have been implicated. District Attorney Sam Bregman ordered 198 DWI cases dismissed because of the scandal. No criminal charges have been filed and the FBI search warrants remain sealed.

The five APD officers who have been identified at the center of the federal investigation are:

  • Lieutenant Justin Hunt
  • Officer Honorio Alba, Jr.
  • Officer Harvey Johnson
  • Officer Joshua Montano
  • Officer Nelson Ortiz

All 5 police officers were placed on paid administrative leave during the pendency of the federal criminal investigation.

On February 9 it was reported that APD Lt. Justin Hunt resigned from APD. He was one of five officers placed on leave. The police department confirmed Hunt worked in the DWI unit from 2011 to 2014. Review of cases dismissed revealed Hunt’s name came up in 18 DWI cases since 2011 with 15 of those were tossed out.  Court records also show Thomas Clear III, who advertises himself as a criminal defense lawyer, was Hunt’s attorney in a 2014 divorce.

On February 13, it was reported that Internal Affairs Division APD Commander Mark Landavazo was been placed on administrative leave as part of the department’s ongoing investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by DWI officers. Landavazo is the highest-ranking member of APD to be put on leave because of corruption allegations involving the prosecution of DWI cases and focusing on several APD officers and their interaction with staff of defense attorney Tom Clear.  Landavazo has been with APD since 2007, became commander of the Internal Affairs Division in 2021.

On Friday, February 17, it was reported that APD temporarily reassigned an Internal Affairs lieutenant who is being investigated amid an ongoing DWI corruption probe.  APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos did not identify the lieutenant but said he is “not currently accused of participating in the alleged DWI scheme being investigated by the FBI.”  He said APD is looking into allegations against the lieutenant that are somehow tied to the “the conduct of current and former DWI officers.” Gallegos did not elaborate.

On Friday, February 2, APD Chief Harold Medina held a press conference to address the “ongoing administrative investigation” involving  the dismissal of DWI cases and the 5 police officers implicated in the DWI dismissal scheme. Medina said this:

We are looking at everyone in the department who may have had a role in the alleged scheme among DWI officers.”

Medina announced he chose Commander Kyle Hartsock, who oversees APD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, to head up the investigation into the five officers.  Medina said Hartsock, who previously worked for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, has an “outside perspective with no ties to current or former DWI officers.”  Medina also said he has “hand chosen” the group to investigate made up of Hartsock and Deputy Commanders Josh Hawkes and Ken Johnston and none have any history with the DWI unit.  Medina said Hartsock has daily calls with the FBI and passes along any criminal findings to the federal agency as the internal probe continues.


It is local law enforcement that investigate felony cases and the forward those cases to the District Attorney for review and final determination of charges. In Bernalillo County, criminal felony cases are investigated by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Albuquerque Police Department or the New Mexico State Police. The law enforcement agency collects and gathers evidence, interviews witnesses and prepares final reports. Once those cases are investigated by the law enforcement agency, the final reports are forwarded to the District Attorney for review and a determination of charges.

It is the duty and responsibility of all District Attorneys to schedule criminal cases before the grand juries convened to bring felony indictments. In Bernalillo County, a designated District Judge oversees and convenes grand juries. The legislature provides the funding to convene grand juries.

There are two major Rules of Criminal Procedure for the District Courts that deal with the convening of grand juries and grand jury investigations.

NM STAT § 31-6-1 (2021)

It is New Mexico statute § 31-6-1 that governs the convening of grand juries. It provides in part:

“The district judge may convene one or more grand juries at any time, without regard to court terms. A grand jury shall serve for a period of no longer than three months. The district judge shall summon and qualify as a panel for grand jury service such number of jurors as he deems necessary. Each grand jury shall be composed of twelve regular jurors and a sufficient number of alternates to insure the continuity of the inquiry and the taking of testimony.”[[rticle-6/section-31-6-1/

RULE 5-302.3

Under Article II, Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution, a State  District Court can  order a grand jury to convene upon the filing of a “citizens petition” to investigate criminal conduct or malfeasance. It is Rule 5-302.3 of the New Mexico Rules of Criminal Procedure that provides for the convening a citizen grand jury by petition.

Under amended rule 5-302.3, which became effective December 31, 2023,  the district court shall order a grand jury to convene on the filing of a petition to investigate criminal conduct or malfeasance proscribed by state law that is signed by not less than the greater of two-hundred (200) registered voters or two percent (2%) of the registered voters of the county.

The district court must make both a factual determination that a citizen petition to convene a grand jury meets the procedural requirements of Article II, Section 14 and a legal determination that the petition seeks a legitimate inquiry into alleged criminal conduct or malfeasance proscribed by state law.

The petition to convene a grand jury must identify with reasonable specificity the alleged criminal conduct or unlawful malfeasance to be investigated. The district court must determine whether the petition seeks to investigate conduct that lies within the permissible scope of grand jury inquiry. If the petition does not reasonably specify alleged conduct that, if true, would warrant a true bill of indictment, the district court must deny the petition.

On the filing of the petition, the district court shall assign the district attorney or the district attorney’s assistants, unless otherwise disqualified, to assist the district court in notifying the target of the grand jury petition and, if the grand jury is convened, in carrying out the duties of the grand jury.

If a target of the potential grand jury investigation is identifiable in the citizen petition, the prosecuting attorney assisting the district court shall use reasonable diligence to notify the target in writing no later than thirty (30) days before the scheduled hearing on the validity of the petition.

The rule provides for additional requirements of notification.


In Bernalillo County there is a well-established history of the Bernalillo County District Attorneys requesting grand jury time to conduct special criminal investigations.  Over the years, those investigation have included voter registration and fraud cases, investigation of the Albquerquerqu Air Port observation deck scandal in the 1990’s for violations of city and state purchasing laws and no bid contracts based on a state auditor’s report finding wrong doing, and the investigation of the mishandling of child abuse cases by the Children, Youth and Families Department in the 1980’s. (Former Assistant District  Attorney and Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Dinelli was involved with the prosecution of  these cases.)

There is also a history of the Bernalillo County District Attorney charging  APD officers with serious crimes. In the 1980’s, three APD officers (Davis, Baily and Hobson)  were indicted for committing robberies and crimes while on duty and patrol and then taking the calls for service.  (Former Assistant District Attorney Pete Dinelli presented evidence against the 3 APD officers in the case to the grand jury.)  In 2015, APD Police Officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy were  charged with second-degree murder for the killing of homeless Camper James Boyd’s on September 20, 2016.  A Special Prosecutor was appointed. Now District Attorney Sam Bregman defended Keith Sandy and the trial ended with a hung jury and no convictions.


With the appointment of an APD criminal investigation team, the resignation of Lt. Justin Hunt from APD and the placing of Internal Affairs Commander Mark Landavazo as well an unidentified Lieutenant on administrative leave as part of the department’s ongoing investigation, it safe to assume that the federal investigation is expanding.  There is a real possibility that more police officers will be implicated in the scandal. It is more likely than not that the Federal investigation will lead to more than a few indictments. However, even if the federal investigation ends with federal indictments, there will be the manner of likely state criminal charges that must be dealt with, if at all.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney plays a critical role in the oversight of law enforcement and is considered the chief law enforcement officer of the county. What is  difficult to accept is how APD is conducting its own investigation, cooperating with the federal investigation and turning over whatever it finds to the feds. APD should also be turning over all of the same information and evidence to the Bernalillo County District Attorney. The District Attorney must review and screen all felony criminal cases that have occurred in the county and investigated by all law enforcement agencies, including the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and the New Mexico State Police.

Ultimately, it is the Bernalillo County District Attorney that has the exclusive authority to decide what state charges are to be brought based upon the investigations done by the law enforcement agencies. Crimes committed by law enforcement officers in the county are also prosecuted by the District Attorney.  The problem has always been that District Attorney are always reluctant to investigate and prosecute law enforcement, even for serious felonies, proclaiming conflicts and the need to work with local law enforcement.

Who ever is elected Bernalillo County District Attorney come November 5, they should request the scheduling grand jury time from the District Court to exclusively investigate the Albquerquerqu Police Department and the APD-DWI dismissal bribery scandal. Another area that merits investigation is APD’s chronic overtime pay abuse. There have been no less than 7 audits documenting the corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in APD police overtime over the past 8 years with one audit done by none other than former State Auditor Tim Keller. Many of those audits have been forwarded to the Attorney General and nothing ever became of them. Those audits could be relied upon by the District Attorney to bring charges. The grand jury  investigation could be based upon APD’s Internal Affairs Investigation, city and state audits already performed on APD overtime pay abuses with reliance also on  the Federal investigation as well as APD’s own Internal Affairs Investigation and the investigation by the appointed team.

A second option that exists if the District Attorney is reluctant or resists initiating a grand jury investigation is the public could seek the convening of a special grand jury by citizens petition which is far more realistic than people may believe. Ten years ago is was sure public outcry that brought the Department of Justice (DOJ)to Albuquerque to investigate the Albuquerque Police Department and its use of force and deadly force and the rash of police officer involved shootings. The DOJ did and investigation for over a year and found a “culture of aggression” within APD and the investigation resulted in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating implementation of constitutional policing practices.

All three candidates for Bernalillo County District Attorney pontificate just how bad the APD scandal is and how it has undermined the credibility of the APD. The 3 candidates running for District Attorney have yet to state whether or not they are willing to prosecute the state crimes associated with the APD-DWI bribery and conspiracy scandal. No doubt they will give the excuse that they want to wait until the Feds complete its investigation but that should not matter given the fact that APD is doing its own investigation and gathering evidence.  Ostensibly, APD is forwarding what it is finding to  the feds and not the Bernalillo County District Attorney. Not one of the 3 candidates for Bernalillo County District Attorney has actually said what they intend to do to deal with or investigate and perhaps even prosecute APD police offers who have violated New Mexico state law no doubt concerned about the  APD police union and its endorsement.



The link to a related blog article is here:

Dismissal Of 152 DWI Cases In APD Scandal And Campaign Contribution Become Issues In Bernalillo County District Attorney Race; DWI Victim Rights Advocates Raise The Alarm Over Dismissals; Dismantle and Reconstitute DWI Unit  


This entry was posted in Opinions by . Bookmark the permalink.


Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.