Prosecutor accuses Rio Arriba County sheriff of intimidating two witnesses - Albuquerque Journal

Prosecutor accuses Rio Arriba County sheriff of intimidating two witnesses

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan allegedly attempted to file perjury charges against two witnesses that testified against him during his criminal trial earlier this month, and now prosecutors say Lujan may have committed another crime.

At a Monday afternoon status hearing, special prosecutor Andrea Rowley Reeb said New Mexico State Police notified her that a Rio Arriba sheriff’s deputy approached them about Lujan wanting to file charges against witnesses Cody Lattin and Ernest Saucedo, both law enforcement officers who testified against Lujan at his trial.

Lattin, a former sheriff’s deputy, and Saucedo, an Española police officer, were witnesses in a case in which Lujan is charged with intimidation of a witness and harboring or aiding a felon for allegedly helping former Española City Councilor Phillip Chacon evade police. The judge declared a mistrial June 4 due to a hung jury and Lujan could be tried again.

Reeb said she anticipates an investigation into Lujan’s actions that might result in additional criminal charges of intimidation of a witness. She said she assumes she will be appointed to investigate the actions because she’s handling Lujan’s other cases.

“This is now what I consider direct intimidation,” she said in an interview. “It blows my mind that somebody who is being tried for a case feels that he is above the law, and you can go out and do something like this.”

First Judicial District Judge Kathleen McGarry said in court she’s concerned by Reeb’s allegations and warned Lujan about interfering with his criminal cases. She said she would consider having him placed in custody if he violates his conditions of release.

State Police told Reeb they had no intention of pursuing those charges and 1st Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said she wouldn’t either.

“At this time, nothing has been referred to us, but we do not intend to move forward with perjury charges stemming from Sheriff Lujan’s case,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles said Reeb was grandstanding at the hearing and presented no evidence to back up her allegations.

“All we’re acting on right now is speculation … the only thing we had was an email that a sergeant had talked to the State Police,” Bowles said.

He said Lattin made two materially different statements in testimony at trial and testimony at a preliminary hearing. Lattin changed what he said concerning his knowledge of Chacon’s criminal charges, Bowles said.

Saucedo allegedly testified that the officers he was with during the incident with Chacon were different from dispatch records deputies discovered, Reeb said.

“We’re supposed to be about justice in this business,” Bowles said. “We’re not about personal vendettas and attacks, and this isn’t about winning at all costs. It’s about doing justice, wherever it leads.”


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