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Two adults from compound now held on cash-only bonds

SANTA FE – Two of the adults who were arrested at a Taos County compound earlier this month have recently been slapped with cash-only bonds that will keep them in jail if they can’t raise the money – but not for the child abuse charges they’ve faced from the start.

Trespassing citations against four of the five adults who were arrested during or just after an Aug. 3 raid of the compound showed up in court files about two weeks after the raid.

Tuesday, defendants Lucas Morton, 40, and Subhanah Wahhaj, 35, were ordered held under $5,000 cash-only bonds by Taos Magistrate Court Judge Ernest Ortega on the trespassing charges.

Two others from the compound, Hujrah Wahhaj, 37, and Jany Leveille, 35, also were given trespassing citations, dated the day of the raid. But these two were not given monetary bonds by the magistrate judge they faced, Jeffrey Shannon.

Lawyers for Morton and Subhanah Wahhaj have filed emergency motions for reviews in the higher District Court, saying their clients are “unable to meet the current conditions of release.”

Megan Mitsunaga, Subhanah Wahhaj’s lawyer, called the $5,000 bonds unconstitutional and said people are typically released on their own recognizance for misdemeanors like trespassing.

“A $5,000 cash-only bond for a misdemeanor is outside the bounds of anything that would be reasonable,” Mitsunaga told the Journal.

Last week, Taos District Court Judge Sarah Backus set off controversy when she ordered that the five adults from the compound can be released on unsecured $20,000 signature bonds – meaning they only have to pay if they’re found to have violated conditions of release. During the Aug. 3 raid of the remote compound, officers found 11 children ages 1-15 that they say appeared to be malnourished, and each adult defendant faces 11 counts of felony child abuse.

Backus has faced criticism from Gov. Susana Martinez and others, and telephoned threats, over her denial of prosecutors’ motions to hold the five Muslim defendants until trial. Officers testified that children from the compound say they were being trained to make armed attacks on educational, law enforcement and government institutions.

The compound was on land owned by local resident Jason Badger, although defendant Morton had purchased property in the same area. Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Rael issued the criminal trespass citations. “Above person was advised by property owner Jason Badger to vacate the property + failed to do so,” the citations say.

The fifth defendant, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, is also charged with custodial interference, for allegedly abducting his 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, from Georgia in December. So far he is the only one not cited for trespassing. Child remains found on the compound have been identified as those of his missing son. The Taos district attorney is waiting on determination of cause of the death before filing any charges in the boy’s death.

Time stamps on the trespassing citations indicate that they weren’t filed in court until last Thursday, three days after Backus’ controversial decision to allow release of the defendants without a secured bond. Taos County spokesman Steve Fuhlendorf said Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told him the citations were taken to the courthouse Aug. 6, the first business day after they were issued, so it’s unclear why that weren’t stamped as filed until last week. All of the defendants remain in jail.

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