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Sheriff arraigned on obstruction charges

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Sporting an orange shirt and striped pants issued by the Los Alamos County Detention Center, Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan was arraigned and released from custody Friday, after being arrested the day prior for failing to comply with a search warrant.

Sheriff James Lujan

Española police and Taos County deputies arrested Lujan when he refused to unlock a cellphone officers believe was used while Lujan obstructed an active SWAT standoff in March.

The arraignment was moved to Los Alamos after both magistrate judges in Rio Arriba County recused themselves.

Los Alamos Magistrate Court Judge Pat Casados said Lujan would be released on his own recognizance. Under his conditions for release, Lujan is not allowed to possess a firearm, consume any alcoholic beverage or enter a liquor establishment.

However, Lujan and his attorney Nathaniel Thompkins said the sheriff would need his gun while still working as the head law enforcement official in Rio Arriba.

“I understand that you are an officer,” Casados said. “It does worry me, but I’m going to put that you can have a weapon only at work.”

Casados also said Lujan could enter a liquor establishment if required to do so while working as a law enforcement official.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb, who will prosecute Lujan in a separate obstruction case in district court, said she was not surprised that Lujan was allowed to keep his firearm, but that most police officers would have been put on administrative leave and had their gun confiscated.

She also said it’s unclear exactly when Lujan would be off duty, since many sheriffs are on-call at all hours.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas appointed Reeb to prosecute the case against Lujan after 1st Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna recused himself. Balderas also granted Reeb the authority to prosecute any charges stemming from Thursday’s arrest.

Reeb said she will file to combine the charges, meaning Lujan will face three charges of resisting and obstructing officers.

So far, five of the eight judges in the 1st Judicial District Court have recused themselves from overseeing Lujan’s case. As of Friday, Judge Bryan Biedscheid is the assigned judge.


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