Pete Dinelli, running for mayor and standing on Civic Plaza on Wednesday morning, called on New Mexico’s top law enforcement officers to appoint a special prosecutor and convene an “investigatory grand jury” to look into the circumstances surrounding the 2010 death of prominent Albuquerque civil rights attorney Mary Han.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Dinelli also called on Mayor Richard Berry, his opponent in the Oct. 8 election, to place on “immediate leave” Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, interim Police Chief Allen Banks and T.J. Wilham, a former Journal reporter who is now a special projects coordinator for the police department.
Berry said through a spokeswoman Wednesday night that he wouldn’t place them on leave.
Perry, Banks and Wilham – all of whom had different job titles with the city at the time of Han’s death – were among the city officials who went inside Han’s home on Nov. 18, 2010, after her longtime law partner, Paul Kennedy, called 911 to say he had discovered Han dead of an “accidental suicide.”
Dinelli’s news conference followed the release last week of Attorney General Gary King’s review of Han’s death and the way APD handled it.
“The real cause of death for Albuquerque attorney Mary Han may never be determined because of the puzzling police investigation, however, the evidence does not definitively indicate she took her own life,” King said in a news release Friday. “We have completed our review of the circumstances and APD’s handling of the death scene and we found that it was terribly mishandled due to inappropriate directions from high-ranking police and civilian administrators with the city of Albuquerque.”
An autopsy report completed by the state Office of the Medical Investigator says Han committed suicide and died by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In an interview Friday, King said he didn’t anticipate any criminal charges against anyone associated with the Han case unless compelling new information came to the attention of his investigators.
Chris Sanchez, a spokesman for the Berry campaign, said in a written statement Wednesday that Dinelli was trying to use Han’s death for political gain.
“We believe the FBI and Office of the Medical (Investigator) have a lot more credibility than a shameless politician trying to hide behind his failed record,” Sanchez said in the statement.
Dinelli said he was “shocked and appalled” by what he read in King’s findings report.
The only way to get to the bottom of what happened to Han and why so many APD and city personnel – 26 in all – were allowed in the home, Dinelli said, was to place them all under oath in a grand jury setting.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, King said he doesn’t have the authority to appoint a special prosecutor to manage a case.
“But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t go forward with some sort of an investigative grand jury process,” he said, drawing a distinction between that kind of proceeding, in which no criminal predicate is required, and a traditional grand jury proceeding in which individuals are targeted for possible criminal charges. “The first thing to do is to look at the feasibility of something like that, and we might be amenable to that.”