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Judge recuses herself from rape trials for sect leader

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

District Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos (Facebook)

The state judge presiding in two sexual assault trials involving a paramilitary religious sect leader removed herself from the cases Tuesday after prosecutors raised questions about Facebook posts made by her husband about the cases.

State District Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos recused herself from two pending criminal cases against Peter Green, whom police identified as a lieutenant colonel in the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps, which was based near Fence Lake, southwest of Grants.

Sanchez Villalobos said in a short order that she was recusing herself for “good cause,” without any elaboration.

She ordered Green released to house arrest earlier this year after 2½ years in jail. That order led to criticism of Sanchez Villalobos on a local Grants Facebook page. Her husband, Victor Villalobos, posted a defense of her actions while criticizing the prosecution’s case.

Victor Villalobos is also his wife’s campaign manager in her uncontested run for election to the judgeship that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed her to last year.

Prosecutors in the case filed a motion asking Sanchez Villalobos to recuse herself because her husband’s Facebook posts may have created an appearance of bias.

Green is charged with four counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor under the age of 13. Four counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor under the age of 13 against Green were dismissed by Sanchez Villalobos earlier this year.

One case was filed in 2017, and another case, which charges Green with sexual assault, kidnapping and other charges was filed in 2019. The cases involve different children, and some of the allegations date back to 2012 and earlier.

Green’s attorney, after winning his release, alleged prosecutorial misconduct against Assistant District Attorney Mandana Shoushtari for making comments about the case on her Facebook page.

Shoushtari left the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to run in the primary to replace District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, who is not seeking reelection. She was defeated in the Democratic Party primary.

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