GOP lawmakers want judge to resign for suspended sentence - Albuquerque Journal

GOP lawmakers want judge to resign for suspended sentence

Christie Noriega

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Republican legislators from Rio Rancho are calling for a judge to resign after he sentenced a drunken driver who killed two people to three years in prison.

Christie Noriega, 32, pleaded guilty in September to two counts of vehicular homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated in the deaths of Lonny Escovedo, 28, and Michael Chambellan, 21. She was facing up to 30 years in prison.

In early March, she was heading southbound on Interstate 25 near Algodones when she crashed into the two men, who were changing a flat tire on Escovedo’s car. The men died at the scene.

Noriega’s 2-year-old son was in her car but was not injured.

On Friday, 13th Judicial District Judge Louis McDonald sentenced her to 30 years in prison, but suspended all but three years. Following the three years, Noriega will be on supervised probation for five years and could be ordered to serve her full sentence if she violates probation.

“This goes beyond unacceptable, is a dereliction of duty and shows a complete lack of judgment,” Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, said in a news release Monday. “It’s decisions like this one that erode confidence in the criminal justice system in New Mexico. Judge McDonald should resign.”

Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho, and Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, are joining Harper in the calls for McDonald’s resignation.

The judge was not immediately available for comment late Monday, and a court administrator said he would be able to provide more information about the sentencing today.

Noriega’s defense attorney, Steve Aarons, said he thought the call for McDonald’s resignation was “horrible.”

Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho

“I can say that it’s unfortunate that people are judging a very seasoned district court judge without having all of the facts that he had,” Aarons said.

He said there were many factors that led to Judge McDonald sentencing his client to three years, including recommendations from the New Mexico Corrections Department and Noriega’s lack of a criminal or DWI history.

Noriega underwent a 60-day diagnostic at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in the fall and a psychologist wrote that “it is likely best for all involved that any incarceration that might be felt appropriate to be as short in total time as possible.”

The diagnostic, according to Aarons, states that Noriega “does not appear to have any significant substance use disorders” and although she did drink alcohol the day she crashed into Chambellan and Escovedo “she did not make impulsive or reckless decisions about her alcohol use on that day.”

Aarons said Noriega has a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that prevents her body from absorbing and eliminating alcohol.

Media reports zeroed in on the disease and highlighted the judge’s questions about whether the corrections department could handle her care.

Aarons, however, said there was a lot more that went into the sentencing decision.

“I really think its her lack of history,” he said. “Even the Corrections Department recommended the least amount of time possible.”

He added that the victims had also parked in an area just a couple of feet from the traveling lane and had a door open.

Home » News » Crime » GOP lawmakers want judge to resign for suspended sentence

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

New Mexico-based 'quantum dot' maker growing by leaps and ...
ABQnews Seeker
Microscopic, New Mexico-made 'quantum dots' could ... Microscopic, New Mexico-made 'quantum dots' could soon be powering up commercial buildings, boosting greenhouse production and, eventually, even feeding astronauts on the moon. Los ...
Being a good CPA means being there in crisis
ABQnews Seeker
I grew up on the East ... I grew up on the East Coast. When I moved to Tucson for graduate school, and later to Albuquerque, I was shocked by the ...
How Bimbo lost its trademark case
ABQnews Seeker
Forty-some years ago, Leland Sycamore developed ... Forty-some years ago, Leland Sycamore developed a recipe for making at commercial scale something that resembled homemade bread. To avoid the mass-produced look, the ...
Green chile brand hosting nationwide recipe contest
ABQnews Seeker
505Southwestern is celebrating 25 years in ... 505Southwestern is celebrating 25 years in business by hosting a nationwide recipe contest and making donations to its scholarship fund, according to a news ...
First New Mexico cannabis excise tax payments due Wednesday
ABQnews Seeker
The first excise tax filings and ... The first excise tax filings and payments are due Wednesday for sales made through the month of April, according to a news release from ...
Climate change and fire are threatening an ancient NM ...
ABQnews Seeker
My parents' families come from the ... My parents' families come from the tiny, adjacent northern New Mexico villages of El Turquillo and Guadalupita, which lie roughly halfway between the Village ...
Meet the New Mexico-born neuropsychologist working to diversify the ...
ABQnews Seeker
Not many people know what a ... Not many people know what a neuropsychologist is, so Lynette Abrams-Silva explains it this way: "It's part detective, part novelist and part demon hunter."
174-lot development underway in Rio Rancho
ABQnews Seeker
Seasons at Monarch, a new community ... Seasons at Monarch, a new community on the horizon at the Mariposa Subdivision in Rio Rancho, is gearing up for sales. Some key infrastructure ...
Former Ohio prisons chief top contender to run US ...
ABQnews Seeker
The former director of the Ohio ... The former director of the Ohio state prison system has emerged as a leading contender to run the crisis-plagued federal Bureau of Prisons, three ...