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Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
His attorney said he was a naive, young police officer investigating a Farmington home he believed was involved in drug trafficking.
Prosecutors said he was trying to use drugs to prey on a 16-year-old girl and a woman who is drug user.
New Mexico State Police Officer Daniel Capehart, 33, went from patrolling the streets of northwest New Mexico in uniform to solitary confinement at the Cibola County Detention Center, now wearing a red jumpsuit after he was arrested on suspicion of distributing marijuana and methamphetamine.
According to court documents, Capehart attempted to give methamphetamine to a woman and marijuana to a 16-year-old girl. Text messages show that Capehart was romantically interested in both of them, according to court testimony.
Capehart appeared in federal court in Albuquerque on Thursday for preliminary and detention hearings, after which U.S. Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing ruled there was probable cause that Capehart committed a crime and ordered that he be released from custody to an Albuquerque halfway house.
Amy Sirignano, Capehart’s attorney, said she plans to file a motion so Capehart can await trial with his wife in the Farmington area.
An FBI agent in Farmington said during the court hearing that on June 15 Capehart pulled over two teenage girls and issued the driver citations for possession of marijuana and traffic violations. He gave a 16-year-old passenger in the car his business card with his personal cell number on it and took down her phone number and email address.
An hour later, the girl started getting text messages, FBI agent Kalon Fancher said during a preliminary hearing in federal court in Albuquerque on Thursday.
“They were flirtatious in nature,” Fancher said. “She explained that she was uncomfortable with the conversation.”
At one point, the girl texted Capehart, “haha you know I’m 16 yeah?” He later responded: “Age is just a number,” according to a criminal complaint.
San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said that for several months the Region II Narcotics Task Force, a team comprised of investigators from several agencies in the region, as well as sheriff’s office officials and the FBI suspected Capehart was engaging in inappropriate behavior with at least one woman. Fancher also mentioned in court law enforcement’s concerns about Capehart.
Christesen said they didn’t think there was enough information to launch an investigation.
“But when the 16-year-old came forward, that set everything in motion and we decided that it was time to move,” he said.
The girl gave her phone to a sheriff’s office detective, who continued to text with Capehart while pretending to be the girl. Several of the texts were read aloud in court while Capehart shook his head, according to court testimony. His wife and several family members attended the hearing.
Capehart texted about wanting to meet her and asked her for selfies. He told her she had the body of a woman and that high school boys couldn’t handle her. He talked about wanting to visit a lake with her and rub tanning oil on her.
“You … me … tanning lotion,” Capehart texted, according to court testimony.
Capehart also texted the girl pictures of marijuana and marijuana pipes, told her how to carry marijuana to avoid being detected by police – “Hide it in your bra baby!!! That’s the best spot for girls,” for example.
On June 21 and 23, he hid packages containing marijuana for the girl at previously agreed to locations, an electricity junction box and at a car wash next to Farmington High School, Fancher said.
San Juan County Sheriff’s Office detectives were watching and texting Capehart at the time, and they collected the drugs as evidence, according to the complaint.
Sirignano said that Capehart made the initial traffic stop and started texting the girl after seeing her and a friend leave a Farmington home that law enforcement believes is connected to drug trafficking. She said he was trying to develop a rapport with the girl and use her as a source.
She said that Capehart’s sergeant was aware of the investigation and the FBI never approached that particular sergeant.
On June 28, Fancher met with a woman who had started texting with Capehart nine months earlier, after he arrested her on traffic violations. The woman regularly works as a source with San Juan County law enforcement, uses drugs and has been arrested about 10 times, he said.
Fancher said the woman gave him her phone, and he launched into a text exchange with Capehart that led to talk of drugs and sex.
Posing as the woman, Fancher sent a message saying she was upset because her husband had been thrown in jail before getting her “regual stuff to keep me happy.”
The two made plans to set up a meth dealer and have Capehart arrest the dealer, then split the drugs with the woman. The dealer, “Max,” was really an undercover law enforcement officer carrying two baggies of meth seized during a prior investigation, according to the complaint.
Capehart pulled two people over near SunRay Park and Casino. After booking the undercover officer into jail, Capehart delivered a meth rock near a bathroom at Salmon park in Bloomfield, according to the complaint.
He then gave directions where to find the drugs to Fancher, still posing as the woman. Fancher picked up the drugs and arrested Capehart the next day, according to court testimony.
Capehart admitted to trying to deliver “a few grams” of drugs to the teenager and the woman. But he said he was doing it to learn about crime in the area, according to the complaint.
Capehart was born in La Ceiba, Honduras, in 1985 and was adopted by his parents, who were missionaries in the country, Sirignano said.
He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2008 after serving overseas. Prior to joining the State Police, he was working as a Zumba fitness instructor and six times applied unsuccessfully to work for the Farmington and Bloomfield police and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, according to his résumé.
New Mexico State Police didn’t respond to an email asking for comment about Capehart. He applied to work for the State Police in 2013.