SANTA FE — The Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office recent complaint against Jason Lidyard, a former prosecutor who is now a judge, says Lidyard failed to disclose exculpatory evidence about a homicide victim to the defense attorney for the man accused of the killing
Because of that, the office claims it had to give a lenient plea deal to Caleb Calandro, who had been charged with murder.
Calandro, 36, was charged for killing Rustin Radcliffe in a downtown Santa Fe city parking lot in December 2016. On Monday, Calandro pleaded no contest to one charge of involuntary manslaughter for shooting Radcliffe and one count of aggravated battery for shooting and seriously wounding another man in a second, separate case.
Calandro was sentenced to four years in prison but was given credit for time served since his 2016 arrest, giving him about 14 months left to serve.
Calandro was initially charged with first-degree murder in Radcliffe’s death, but the case was dismissed after a judge found that the jury was not properly instructed during the grand jury proceeding that resulted in his indictment. Calandro was re-indicted earlier this year for second-degree murder.
On Monday, the DA’s Office released a statement saying that it had to offer Calandro the lenient plea deal because of conduct by former prosecutor Jason Lidyard, who is now a District Court judge and primarily presides over cases in Rio Arriba County. The DA’s office filed a state bar complaint against Lidyard Monday and released it to the Journal on Thursday.
According to the complaint, written by Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett, Lidyard did not disclose several police reports where Radcliffe was the suspect or defendant in violent crimes. Padgett says the information should have been disclosed to Calandro’s defense attorney under court rules. “While the DA’s office will not go so far as to stipulate that all of this information would have been deemed admissible at trial, it does appear that most of the information contained in these packets is exculpatory and should have been disclosed…” Padgett wrote.
Lidyard was assigned to be the prosecutor in the case in February 2017 and was appoineted as a judge by former Gov. Susana Martinez in March 2018. Assistant District Attorney Blake Nichols was later assigned to prosecute the case in August 2018.
In October 2018, Nichols received a box with documents associated with the Radcliffe murder case. Inside was a packet of documents with a post-it note saying “DO NOT DISCLOSE.” The packet had a report from the Santa Fe Police Department where Radcliffe allegedly beat a man so badly that he needed to be hospitalized. “Clearly exculpatory in nature, ADA Nichols immediately contacted defense counsel, Thomas M. Clark, who confirmed he did not have this packet,” Padgett Macias wrote.
In May, while preparing for trial, Nichols and a couple summer interns checked to make sure all the information in the box had been disclosed, the complaint states. They found more police reports where Radcliffe was the suspect or defendant that had not been disclosed to the defense attorney.
Tom Clark said at Monday’s sentencing hearing for Calandro that Radcliffe threatened to rob Calandro at knifepoint, so Calandro shot him in self-defense. Lidyard could not be reached for comment Thursday.