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History of trouble

Former police union president Joey Sigala, right, is seen on closed-circuit television with public defender Keith Rinaldi during Sigala's first court appearance on domestic violence charges on Thursday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)
Former police union president Joey Sigala, right, is seen on closed-circuit television with public defender Keith Rinaldi during Sigala's first court appearance on domestic violence charges on Thursday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)
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APD officer and former police union president Joey Sigala has a volatile history with his wife that dates to at least 2005, according to police reports, although none of the couple’s run-ins ever resulted in an arrest until Wednesday.

It is unclear whether internal reviews took place in the wake of at least four incidents prior to Wednesday in which police were called to deal with arguments and other issues involving the Sigalas.

A Metro Court judge on Thursday set Joey Sigala’s bond at $10,000 cash or surety following Sigala’s arrest Wednesday on felony domestic violence charges of aggravated burglary and false imprisonment. The judge ordered him not to possess any firearms at least until he is indicted and arraigned, which could take up to 60 days. (View video of Sigala’s court appearance below)

Police say Sigala’s wife, Ashley, was at a friend’s home in Northwest Albuquerque when Joey Sigala stormed in shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. Sigala accused his wife of cheating on him before taking her public assistance benefits card and some cash from her purse, throwing a cellphone charger at her, then striking her in the face with his hand after she followed him outside the home.

Sigala, who was in a partial police uniform and carrying his duty weapon at the time of the incident, then fled the scene in his unmarked police car, authorities said. He was later arrested, after a two-hour search by police that led them to his parents’ North Valley home.

Sigala was placed on paid leave following his arrest.

APD police reports show that officers have been called to deal with the couple at least four times prior to Wednesday. Two of those calls, the more recent taking place in March while Joey Sigala was under increasing scrutiny over allegations of misspent union dues, were dispatched as domestic disputes. The others were a report that Ashley Sigala was missing, and a report that she was threatening herself with a knife.

Police Chief Ray Schultz said Thursday that he didn’t know whether any red flags had ever been raised in the department’s early warning system, which is designed to identify problem officers.

“That’s something we’re looking into,” the chief said Thursday, adding that he also didn’t know whether Joey Sigala was ever offered counseling by APD. “I’m not aware of any formal intervention, and the March incident wouldn’t necessarily have generated any. I’m not sure who in the chain of command was notified of that incident. I believe I was out of town at the time.”

Schultz, who had a close working relationship with Sigala during Sigala’s nearly three years as president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, declined to say whether the officer discussed his marital problems with him.

On March 11, a friend of Ashley Sigala’s called police to report that the officer had hit his wife and that she was driving away from him, according to a police report.

Officers found the couple at a gas station on Golf Course NW in separate vehicles, and one officer had to turn on the emergency lights on his police car to get Joey Sigala to stop backing out of a parking space.

Joey Sigala told officers his wife is a “recovering addict” and had been clean for a “few days,” the report states. He said the two had argued because he feared she was leaving the house to get prescription pills and that he planned to follow her to her dealer’s house and “make a scene” outside.

On that occasion, the report states, both Sigalas denied that the officer had hit his wife.

In November 2005, APD officers responded to a domestic dispute at the Sigalas’ home, according to another police report. The two had argued over evening plans and had “pushed up against” one another in a hallway, but both told officers there had been no battery.

Union trouble

Joey Sigala, 32, has been at the center of multiple controversies in recent months. He abruptly resigned his union presidency in March amid allegations of misspending and revelations that the union paid up to $500 to officers involved in shootings. State Police are investigating allegations of embezzlement at the union.

Some of the questions involved payments made to Sigala’s wife.

Police officials placed Joey Sigala on leave after his arrest on Wednesday.

He made his first court appearance Thursday via closed-circuit television from the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he was in protective custody per standard jail procedure for all current and former police officers.

Public Defender Keith Rinaldi challenged APD’s probable cause for the false imprisonment charge, saying Joey Sigala hadn’t taken any actions that prevented his wife from leaving the home.

But Judge Yvette Gonzales ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the charge, noting that Joey Sigala was armed and, for a time, was blocking his wife’s exit from the home.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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