Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Jesse Mascareno-Haidle, a suspect in 80 home burglaries, is the latest poster boy for the four-year legal fight over pretrial detention that began with the overhaul of the state’s bail system.
District Attorney Raúl Torrez has appealed to the state Supreme Court the release of Mascareno-Haidle, 18, of Albuquerque, arguing his “conduct presents an enormous risk to public safety.”
In the appeal, prosecutors claim they not only proved Mascareno-Haidle is a danger to the community, but also met their burden to show he “will continue to commit crimes while released pending trial, regardless of any conditions of release.”
According to police and court records, Mascareno-Haidle and juvenile accomplices targeted high-end homes abutting open spaces or golf courses. They allegedly entered the houses late at night through open rear doors or windows.
Mascareno-Haidle is charged in separate criminal complaints with two residential burglaries and associated crimes, including auto theft, larceny and receiving stolen property. But, according to court records, he has confessed to participating in more than 26 other late-night burglaries when people were asleep in their homes and is a suspect in dozens more over a period of three to six months.
Mascareno-Haidle, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with stealing the victims’ cars to make his escape with stolen property, and Albuquerque police detectives recovered two firearms, televisions, laptops, Xboxes, cellphones and keys to stolen cars when they arrested him.
Victims of the burglaries are upset that he has been released pending trial, and say Mascareno-Haidle and his accomplices robbed them not just of their valuables, but also of their feeling of safety and security in their homes.
Defense attorneys say Mascareno-Haidle has been on a GPS monitor, submitting to drug testing, and reporting to his pretrial officer and to his attorneys, as ordered by the court. Assistant Public Defender Noah Gelb also said Mascareno-Haidle has gotten a job and is attending school.
“He is being supervised at the highest level and been doing everything right,” Gelb said. “This case demonstrates that the system does work, and it wasn’t necessary to throw him in jail.”
Gelb said Mascareno-Haidle has no criminal history and the pretrial services evaluation recommended he be released on his own recognizance instead of under the conditions laid down by the judge.
Defense attorneys have questions
An off-duty APD detective was scrolling through the Nextdoor app – where people exchange neighborhood news – when he found a post from a man whose home had been burglarized and his SUV stolen.
From there, the detective began looking at a pattern of similar break-ins.
The detective learned of a similar break-in, a half-hour later, directly across the street, and from there discovered a pattern among numerous reported break-ins around Albuquerque and Los Lunas from October to January.
Detectives identified Mascareno-Haidle from a fingerprint taken at one of the burglaries.
According to court records, Mascareno-Haidle confessed to detectives after his arrest and after being told he had a right to remain silent.
Detectives said they identified Mascareno-Haidle and at least one juvenile as suspects when they were captured multiple times on home surveillance videos.
Defense attorneys said they have questions about Mascareno-Haidle’s confession and whether it was constitutional.
They said they also are investigating how detectives zeroed in on Mascareno-Haidle as a suspect in the 80 burglaries.
No punishment before conviction
According to Torrez: “What we’re looking for is some guidance as to what evidence we have to show the court that we have met that burden to keep someone from being released. Right now, the burden is too abstract, we want a clear framework.”
That has been a controversy since the old money bail system was replaced through a constitutional amendment and new rules governing pretrial release were established.
Torrez said in a telephone interview that, in some cases, such as Mascareno-Haidle’s, judges agree prosecutors have shown the defendant is a danger to the community. But they also have ruled that prosecutors failed to show there were no conditions of release that would protect the community.
Torrez said that, in one case, a man charged with aggravated battery was charged with a murder committed while on pretrial release. In another recent case, a man charged in a rape case was found to be a danger to the community, but the judge ruled prosecutors failed to show that no conditions of release would keep the community safe.
“These crimes are extremely high-risk criminal conduct,” Torrez said. “And there is no guarantee defendants will receive the level of monitoring Mascareno-Haidle is receiving.”
Torrez is asking the Supreme Court to find that District Judge Courtney Weaks of Albuquerque erred in ruling that prosecutors failed to show that no conditions of release would protect the community in the Mascareno-Haidle case. He was released by two different judges, but only one of the decisions is on appeal.
Judges have considerable discretion in deciding whether a defendant is dangerous and also on the question of conditions of release.
“The lack of clarity argument is overstated,” Chief Public Defender Bennet Baur said. “Judges can look at a whole host of things to make a determination that pretrial release is warranted or not.”
Baur said Mascareno-Haidle is entitled to the presumption of innocence until he has a trial.
“We get that people are upset. I would be, too,” Baur said. “But the decisions by the court have to be based on certain criteria. You can’t punish someone until after they are convicted.”