Plea deals allow criminals to terrorize NM public

I am a retired, decorated Albuquerque police officer. I began my law enforcement career in 1994 as a state of New Mexico probation/parole officer. In this position, I supervised the highest-risk felony offenders, both on probation and parole. I served 11 years as a PO, then left to attend the police academy in 2003. As an Albuquerque police officer, I served both as a detective in the Crimes Against Children Unit and as a patrol officer. I chose to spend most of my APD career as a patrol officer, mainly in Southeast Albuquerque.

The crime problem in New Mexico is complex; however, key factors are eminent. First and foremost is a lack of accountability, i.e. punishment for committing a crime.

N.M. judges have “discretion in sentencing” and can suspend any, or all, of a sentence, with the exception of certain enhancements, averaging one year. Plea deals run rampant and reduce sentencing on the underlying charge significantly. Judicial discretion in sentencing further reduces consequences, often down to near-zero accountability, with deferred and conditional discharge sentences for violent and serious felony crimes.

As a probation/parole officer, I often supervised two- and three-time convicted violent offenders, including murderers, who were out on the streets, most of them reoffending very quickly on release from prison, sometimes the same day.

Michael Astorga was wanted for absconding while out on a pending murder charge at the time he killed Bernalillo County Deputy James McGrane in 2006. Davon Lymon killed APD Officer Daniel Webster in 2015 while on parole for convictions including voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Jessica Kelley, a repeat offender, had been released from prison four days before 10-year-old Victoria Martens was killed, dismembered and burned in 2016; Kelley pleaded no contest to child abuse recklessly caused resulting in death, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault.

During my career as a probation/parole officer, I supervised violent offenders, child abusers, rapists, drug traffickers, murderers, all crimes imaginable, and those individuals were all out on the street, once again endangering N.M. citizens.

Judges are elected by the citizens and campaign funds come from supporters, including high-priced defense attorneys in private practice. It benefits these lawyers to cut plea deals so their success among the criminally charged is evident. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are over-burdened with cases and are paid a conservative salary, thereby provoking acceptance of unjust plea deals.

The legislators in Santa Fe are responsible for creating laws that ensure the safety of N.M. citizens. However, most of these officials are elected with no credible credentials and are clueless as to how the system works. Some are in the pockets of lobbyists working for those who prefer the rights of criminals paying their salaries vs. N.M. victims. Most N.M. citizens vote into office elected officials simply by name recognition, or party affiliation, and have zero knowledge of the candidates’ qualifications for managing our state.

Police officers risk their lives on a daily basis enforcing N.M. laws. Soon after arrest, these offenders are back out on our streets reoffending. Liberal lawmakers and judges focus on rehabilitation and the rights of the criminal, stating non-violent offenders deserve many chances. Keep in mind drug trafficking is considered a “non-violent offense,” although most drug addicts and drug traffickers commit numerous violent offenses to maintain their criminal behavior, i.e., armed robberies, home invasion, murder, etc. throughout their careers. Also, the N.M. children growing up in the custody of these criminals are often severely abused and neglected.

In summation, corrupt, greedy and unqualified individuals are elected every year to manage and ensure the safety and wellbeing of N.M. citizens. Ask yourself, how well are we, the citizens of N.M., doing?

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