Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Santa Fe police say the officer who failed to attend a court hearing for a man involved in a demonstration that saw a 152-year-old obelisk torn down in October never got notice of a hearing in the case last month.
As a result of the officer not showing up for the Dec. 28 hearing, a Santa Fe magistrate judge dismissed the case against 24-year-old Sean Sunderland, who had been charged with criminal trespass and resisting an officer.
In a late Tuesday afternoon news release, the Santa Fe Police Department said that the Magistrate Court manager failed to notify officer Jesse Campbell of the hearing, resulting in him not showing up.
The release states that Judge Donita Sena was informed of the problem and “will make the determination if this case moves forward, and if the dismissal will be reconsidered.”
Deputy Chief Paul Joye said he remains hopeful the case will be reinstated.
He said the police department requested help from Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett-Macias, who said the office would provide technical assistance in the case but not until a Jan. 11 status hearing, according to emails shared by the police department.
However, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who took office at the beginning of the year, said no one from the police department ever responded to Padgett-Macias’ Nov. 25 email that laid out the District Attorney’s Office policy regarding misdemeanor cases.
“The District Attorney’s office has had a long-standing policy of not getting involved in the prosecution of MR (misdemeanor) cases,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement to the Journal, adding that she would commit to changing that practice.
She said the police department didn’t follow the prerequisites listed in Padgett-Macias’ email, and the DA’s Office played no part in the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s case now seems to be in limbo, even after Sena dismissed it with prejudice, meaning charges couldn’t be refiled.
His attorney, Kitren Fischer, said it shouldn’t matter because prosecutors failed to meet deadlines.
“Even if the prosecutor did not receive notice of the motions hearing, the failure to meet deadlines and failure to respond to motions amounts to a lack of prosecution,” he said in an emailed statement to the Journal. “The Court’s dismissal was entirely proper.”