ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The ridiculous part of this story is how many times Derek Abeyta has been arrested, how many times he was released from jail despite how many times he failed to appear for court or pretrial services and probation check-ins or court-ordered drug tests and treatment.
How many times he walked free of those charges.
But let’s not limit ourselves. There’s almost nothing in this story that isn’t ridiculous.
“Just another instance of unsensational criminal activity going unpunished in Albuquerque under a justice system where lawbreakers, not prosecutors, are all too frequently the winners,” an Albuquerque couple wrote me.
That, in great measure, is because of repeat offenders like Abeyta, 33, and a system that seems impotent or indifferent to stop or help him.
The couple’s saga began March 15, a Monday, when they learned that their blue 2016 Mazda CX-5 had been stolen from the Quality Mazda service department on Lomas NE where it had been parked over the weekend awaiting warranty service repairs.
“Someone broke the glass in the service department’s entrance door, grabbed a handful of unsecured key fobs, went outside and started beeping the key fobs to unlock cars,” the husband wrote. “My car was nearby. The thief made an easy getaway.”
But not for long.
Just after midnight March 16, a State Police officer waiting behind a blue Mazda in a turn lane at Central and Louisiana became curious when the Mazda didn’t budge after the light changed.
He honked, ran the license plate number, learned it was a stolen vehicle and flipped on his lights.
After what a criminal complaint describes as a refusal to comply with officer commands, aggressive movements, a fired bean bag gun and a tussle on the ground, Abeyta was arrested and jailed, charged with auto theft, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license.
But not for long.
Abeyta, who sports a Zia symbol tattoo under his eye, refused to appear for arraignment in Metro Court three times. Court records blamed it on “medical” reasons.
On the fourth try, a judge on March 22 ordered Abeyta released on his own recognizance provided he comply with pretrial supervision.
Meanwhile, the owners of the blue Mazda were thrilled their car had been found so quickly.
But there was a problem. Among the heaps of empty cans, bottles, trash and debris left in their car was a small bag of what was believed to be methamphetamine, a larger bag of what was believed to be marijuana, a meth pipe and a syringe, the couple wrote.
“That made our car a biohazard,” the husband said.
Rather than seize the items, catalog and tag them into evidence, the car was towed to a police holding lot with the items still inside, they said.
“We took photos as evidence and to record the fact that illicit drugs remained in the car,” they wrote.
The Mazda was taken to a tow yard and then a repair shop, and somewhere along the way the illicit items disappeared. No record of the items can be found on any police report.
“They were just gone, and no one seemed to care,” the wife said.
And that’s a little like Abeyta, whose criminal record dates back to 2008 with a series of charges, convictions and no-contest pleas mostly on theft and drug-related crimes and his pattern of failures to appear, the failures of police officers or victims to appear, slaps on the wrist or outright dismissals of charges – including a March 2018 case in which Abeyta was accused of threatening to kill employees at Casa Liquors on Bridge SW and biting the arm of a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy.
Nine days after his arrest, the charges were dropped.
Criminal records this year alone show enough court activity to make one’s head and the revolving doors of jail spin.
On Feb. 15, Abeyta was charged with aggravated battery after a police officer reported seeing him randomly punch an elderly man on Central near Utah.
Four times he was released from jail for that; four times he violated conditions of release, according to court documents. On March 31, the charge was dropped after the elderly man didn’t show up for court.
On March 8, Abeyta was charged with breaking and entering, possession of narcotics, possession of burglary tools, assault and concealing identity after a contractor said he found Abeyta inside a home on Madeira that had been broken into.
Once again, Abeyta was released from jail but was re-arrested for failing to report to pretrial service – and for being arrested April 12 after the owner of a used car dealership on Central SE identified him as the person who allegedly broke into the business through a window and took two computers. Court records show he was released for that charge the next day.
If you’ve managed to follow all that, you’ve noticed that the theft of the couple’s blue Mazda occurred in between these arrests.
“You’d think it would be a favor to the city to get him off the street,” the wife said.
Last Thursday, she was scheduled to testify at a preliminary hearing in the Mazda case at state District Court. The hearing was canceled after the State Police officer who made the arrest was unavailable. As a result, the charges were dismissed, “pending a further investigation with the intent to refile,” court records state.
For now, Abeyta remains behind bars under a tangle of revoked conditions of release and holds. He is housed in an area at the Metropolitan Detention Center where inmates with mental health or substance abuse issues are treated.
The illicit items from the blue Mazda remain unaccounted for, however, the car was eventually returned to the couple.
The couple say they’re skeptical as to whether their Mazda theft case will be refiled.
“The more I’ve learned about this system and this guy, the more outraged I am,” the wife said.
Offenses such as the ones Abeyta has been accused of may be minor irritants in a city grappling with a shocking number of homicides so far this year – but they’re not minor when they happen to you. And not when they keep happening. And happening. And happening. And that’s just ridiculous.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.