The early release from prison of a repeat drug trafficker and murder suspect has forced the state’s 2nd Judicial District Court into the 21st century.
The court document that orders a convict’s sentence will now be emailed from the courthouse in Bernalillo County to the New Mexico Corrections Department, rather than using the decades-old system of mailing several-pound envelopes containing “judgment and sentence” forms and other documents at the end of each day, according to court spokesman Greg Ireland.
The change in procedure comes after Chris Blattner, 32, also known as Chris Blatiner, walked out of prison three years early in February 2012 because Corrections Department officials said they never received the sentence form from a 2009 heroin-trafficking conviction that would have kept Blattner in prison until September 2015.
So when officials considered his release, the only paperwork on file was from a 2005 conviction, and he was released.
Since his early release, Blattner has also been questioned regarding the disappearance of Katherine Paquin, who police said is in danger.
Ireland, who described the Blattner mistake as a “catalyst” in changing the way the departments communicate, said the court sent Blattner’s “judgment and sentence” documents to Corrections in 2009 and doesn’t know what happened to them afterward.
“It’s terrible. It’s really dismal what happened,” Ireland said. “So we’re encouraging all the (state) departments to adopt the same model we have with Corrections.”
Ireland said the new email process will also give both the courts and Corrections “return receipts” to ensure important documents were sent where they needed to be.
Corrections found the error in March 2012, and Blattner, who is now in prison in Los Lunas, was arrested in August after a nine-hour SWAT situation in which Blattner shot at Albuquerque police.
It was the second time an oversight allowed Blattner to remain free when he should have been in prison.
Blattner was sentenced in December 2005 to nine years in prison for meth trafficking. At the time, now-retired District Judge Michael Kavanaugh gave Blattner about a month and a half to get his affairs in order before starting his sentence in January 2006. (Corrections initially said this happened in January 2007).
But the court never filed an additional hearing notice for Jan. 31, 2006, which would have ordered Blattner to prison, according to Blattner’s case file, and Blattner never showed for his sentence.
The DA had no “paper trail” that would have alerted that office to his absence, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Drebing, who also prosecuted Blattner during the 2005 trial.
“If the court is going to allow them out, they have to … create a setting,” Drebing said. “There’s not a paper trail unless we get a setting.”
Ireland said the court has no way of knowing if an inmate absconds if it isn’t told about it by an outside source, like the DA, law enforcement or, as it turned out in Blattner’s case, a concerned neighbor.
Blattner entered prison in the fall of 2007 after Blattner’s neighbor told law enforcement that he was on the loose, according to court documents.
Finally in prison, Blattner was convicted of the heroin trafficking charge in 2009, based on criminal acts he committed before entering prison.
Also during that time, Blattner was indicted for the murder of 36-year-old George Orozco, whose body was found near the Route 66 Casino. That case was built on the understanding that Blattner’s co-defendant would testify against him, but the deal fell through and the DA chose to drop charges with the possibility of re-filing them.
The DA said it will re-file the case in the near future.
Court Has Moved To Email EraEarly release of drug trafficker and murder suspect brought actionSee COURT on PAGE A6Court Making Move Into Email Agefrom PAGE A1″It’s terrible. It’s really dismal what happened. So we’re encouraging all departments to adopt the model we have with Corrections.”GREG IRELAND
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal