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Las Cruces man let out of prison weeks after judge orders release

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A Las Cruces man who was being held in prison despite a judge ordering his immediate release four weeks ago was let out of the Otero County Prison Facility on Tuesday morning.

Judge Douglas Driggers of the 3rd Judicial District Court ordered Johnny Malone’s immediate release on Dec. 17 after finding that Malone, 37, had completed his sentence for 2007 rape and kidnapping convictions.

Despite the order, Malone was still being held in prison earlier this week. Corrections Department spokesman Eric Harrison told the Journal on Monday that the department was looking into the legality of Driggers’ order.

“After completing the review of the order, the department determined that it was appropriate to release Mr. Malone,” Harrison said in an email Wednesday.

Malone’s attorney, Kenneth Stalter, told the Journal that Malone was released from the facility Tuesday morning, the same day the Journal and other outlets published news articles about the case.

“They (Corrections) never clarified for us what their decision was, but the timing strongly suggests that it was in response to media attention,” Stalter said.

Malone was sentenced to six years in prison followed by two years of parole and five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to one count of criminal sexual penetration and one count of kidnapping. He violated his probation in 2012, and his sentence was changed to require five to 20 years of parole. Malone was serving his parole in custody.

Driggers ruled that Malone’s sentence was illegally modified in 2012 and ordered his release. Stalter said he is investigating potential civil action.

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