Judges move 2 trials of Rio Arriba sheriff - Albuquerque Journal

Judges move 2 trials of Rio Arriba sheriff

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Both criminal trials for Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan will be held in Santa Fe County after judges in his two cases approved change-of-venue motions.

First Judicial District Judge Kathleen McGarry on Friday morning granted the change of venue motion to Santa Fe County for Lujan’s mistrial case from June, in which he’s accused of bribery of a witness and harboring or aiding a felon. She also said jurors would come exclusively from Santa Fe County.

“I underestimated the effect of trying a sheriff in the county in which he is sheriff and the overwhelming number of deputies that were at the courthouse,” McGarry said in her ruling. “I thought that it was just so utterly inappropriate that there was a barbecue that took place on the court grounds without ever discussing it, or talking to the judge about it before it took place.”

The judge was apparently referring to a cookout that prosecutors said was held in the courthouse parking lot in support of Lujan during the trial.

She said to Lujan’s credit, or detriment, he is well known in Rio Arriba County and it would be difficult to underestimate the influence he has there.

She set jury selection for Nov. 22.

Sheriff James Lujan

Lujan is accused of helping former Española City Councilor Phillip Chacon evade police in March 2017. He’s also accused of interfering with a search warrant for failing to turn over his cellphone in an incident related to his earlier case.

In her change of venue motion, prosecutor Andrea Rowley Reeb accused Lujan of controlling courthouse security, approaching witnesses and jurors, hosting a barbecue in the courthouse parking lot and more during his mistrial.

In June, 1st Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid also ruled Lujan’s upcoming trial, in which he’s charged with three counts of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, would also be held in Santa Fe County. However, where the jury pool will come from for this trial is slated for a motion hearing Aug. 26.


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