Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Attorney Sam Bregman is asking the Attorney General’s Office to “investigate and prosecute” Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales for intimidating a witness, claiming the sheriff launched an internal affairs investigation against a deputy for making unfavorable remarks in a deposition.
Deputy Leonard Armijo testified under oath in connection with a lawsuit Bregman filed against Gonzales and the County Commission on behalf of the partner of a man shot and killed by deputy Joshua Mora in November 2017.
In the letter to Attorney General Hector Balderas, Bregman contends that “Deputy Armijo’s sworn testimony was very unfavorable to Sheriff Gonzales and the Sheriff’s Department. We have now been informed that Sheriff Gonzales has launched an internal affairs complaint against deputy Armijo for the specific allegations that he did not like the way deputy Armijo answered the questions put forth in his deposition.”
Bregman asked Balderas to investigate and prosecute the sheriff for intimidation of a witness, a third-degree felony.
The sheriff’s department issued a statement saying it is “handling this case like it handles all cases of alleged deputy misconduct … We as a department are obliged to ensure that our deputies operate within the confines of the law and according to procedure.”
“Implementing an honest and fair fact-finding process that uncovers the truth is Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office goal in every internal affairs investigation,” the statement says. “An honest and fair investigation is essential to protect the rights of all involved, including the accused deputy.”
In a news release accompanying the letter, Bregman said, “Sheriff Gonzales is running the Sheriff’s Department like it’s a mob family. If you testify against the boss you will pay the price. Sheriff Gonzales has crossed the line. He is now acting like a criminal himself.”
Attorney Luis Robles, who is representing the sheriff in the lawsuit, scoffed at the idea that the sheriff is operating like a mob boss.
“I know of no mob bosses that are popularly elected and then stand for re-election. Sam is Sam …” Robles said referring to Bregman. “But a popularly elected sheriff is not a mob boss.”
David Carl, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Balderas takes accusations of abuse of public office seriously.
“The Office of the Attorney General has received the public referral and this matter is under review,” Carl said in a statement. “All complaints received by the Office of the Attorney General are fully reviewed and appropriate action is taken.”
Journal staff writer Ryan Boetel contributed to this report.