ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A high-profile child abuse and trafficking case may be on the verge of a mistrial after a witness testified Wednesday afternoon that James Stewart acted as a “lookout” for a man allegedly engaging in “human trafficking.”
Although state District Judge Cindy Leos initially said she was granting a defense request for a mistrial, she held off on doing so to allow time for attorneys to get a transcript of an earlier ruling regarding testimony and evidence the state could introduce.
Stewart is on trial this week on charges that he forced his now-8-year-old daughter to touch his friends inappropriately.
But problems arose late in the trial’s third day as the girl’s grandmother, Guanda Kenney, spoke about the family’s connections to “Uncle Chip.” Prosecutors have said that was the child’s nickname for Cornelius Galloway, who is federally accused of leading a sex trafficking organization.
Kenney said that when her granddaughter lived with her for a period of time, Stewart would periodically pick her up and take her to play with Galloway’s daughter. And Stewart’s daughter testified Tuesday that the two would play with Barbies and jump on beds.
Kenney told jurors that Stewart “helped Uncle Chip with some things,” like feeding his dogs and cleaning their pens, and acting as a lookout.
“When he was a lookout, what was he looking out for?” prosecutor Brittany DuChaussee asked.
“The police,” Kenney said.
“Why was he looking out for the police for Uncle Chip?” DuChaussee asked.
“Because of human trafficking,” Kenney said.
Stewart’s attorney, Stefanie Gulley, asked the court for a mistrial “because she just said that he engaged in human trafficking with Chip Galloway.”
“I mean, I don’t understand how that’s not extremely prejudicial,” she said.
Discussion on a possible mistrial is set to resume this morning.