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Jury acquits former MDC sergeant of aggravated battery charge

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Eric Allen

Jurors on Monday found former Bernalillo County jail sergeant Eric Allen not guilty of aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm, but they could not reach a consensus on a petty misdemeanor battery charge.

Allen was accused of battering handcuffed Metropolitan Detention Center inmate Joe Ray Barela and ordering fellow correctional officers to “hurt him” during an incident in December 2015.

A spokesman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that prosecutors had not determined whether they will retry Allen on the remaining charge.

Allen’s defense attorney, Sam Bregman, said a second trial would be a waste of taxpayer money.

“This is a case that should not even have been prosecuted to begin with,” Bregman said. “It is a waste of resources on the part of the government, and I sincerely hope that they don’t compound that waste of resources by trying this petty misdemeanor again … for a corrections officer who was simply doing his job as he’s been trained to do.”

Bregman said jurors deliberated for about four hours before acquitting his client of the aggravated battery charge. Eight out of 12 believed he should also be acquitted of the petty misdemeanor battery charge, a lesser included offense of the main count.

Prosecutor David Waymire had argued that Allen both battered Barela and ordered other officers to do so. During the altercation, Barela was knocked into a cabinet and kicked, and a key and pen were pressed into his neck.

Bregman told jurors that his client was using “pain compliance” on a high-risk inmate who had been failing to obey orders.

Jail reports on the incident described Barela as a disruptive inmate who had been booked into the jail more than 30 times.

Reports by Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office investigators and a private investigator determined that Allen’s actions were excessive, and an employee working in the infirmary described the altercation as torture.

Allen, who had been a correctional officer for 16 years, was fired by the county in March after collecting more than $90,000 during two years that he was on paid administrative leave. County officials indicated that they planned to discipline him with termination because of his “pattern of excessive force and inappropriate conduct.”

Allen also came under fire in 2016 after video surfaced in which he is heard telling another officer to put a petite female inmate in a wrist lock and to “twist her wrist until she shuts up and stops crying.”

Allen is appealing his termination.

Candace Hopkins, a spokeswoman for MDC, said the verdict does not have any effect on Allen’s job status.

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