APD slams release of suspect in two homicides - Albuquerque Journal

APD slams release of suspect in two homicides

Adrian Avila (MDC)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A decision by a judge to release a suspect in two homicides on a GPS ankle monitor pending trial drew fierce criticism Tuesday from Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina.

Medina took aim at 2nd Judicial District Judge Stanley Whitaker, who rejected two motions from prosecutors to hold Adrian Avila in jail while he awaits trial on charges including murder, kidnapping and armed robbery.

Avila is accused in two shootings six months apart, an August 2020 case where a teen was killed during a gun robbery and a February 2021 case where a man was killed in front of his home by his brother’s kidnappers.

Ahmad Assed, Avila’s attorney, said Whitaker found that prosecutors failed to demonstrate that no conditions of release for Avila — who has no criminal history — could ensure the safety of the public.

Stan Whitaker

“These people are accused of killing somebody and we’re counting on an ankle bracelet to protect the community,” Medina said. He said Avila is “at the root of gun violence,” and called his release “ridiculous.”

Assed argued in a motion that the prosecution’s evidence against Avila in the August 2020 homicide is circumstantial and based largely on cellphone and Snapchat account records that don’t reliably establish his involvement.

In addition to wearing a GPS ankle monitor, Whitaker ordered that Avila remain under house arrest and be allowed to leave his mother’s home only to attend a charter high school and for educational purposes.

Assed responded that Medina’s “irresponsible and reckless” statements have the potential to poison a jury pool and raise questions about APD’s ability to investigate crimes objectively.

“It’s outrageous for Albuquerque’s chief law enforcement officer, who wasn’t even at the hearing, to make a knee-jerk comment that is purely reactionary and pandering,” Assed said.

Medina and Assed personally negotiated Avila’s surrender to APD, Assed said.

Medina said he understands monitoring those accused of property crimes, such as car theft, but “there’s a line in the sand” that comes with violence. He said he understands judges are following guidelines, but argued that those guidelines, like the Arnold tool, which scores a defendant’s risk of flight or new crime, need to be fixed.

Several studies have shown the Arnold tool has a good success rate and the state’s pretrial detention system is, in general, effective in most cases.

Medina said multiple people have continued to conduct illegal activity while on house arrest and GPS monitoring, adding that, on Tuesday, a domestic violence offender was unaccounted for after the batteries died on his GPS device.

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the courts need to build trust in the community and not admitting they’re doing something wrong in these cases “hurts the whole system.”

“We posted this stuff on social media and it’s blowing up; people want to blame, they feel something’s not right here. I think the courts need to admit that something is wrong and start rebuilding that community trust,” he said.

Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez’s office said prosecutors plan to appeal Avila’s pretrial release.

“We strongly disagree with the Court’s assessment that GPS monitoring is sufficient to protect the community from someone like Adrian Avila, who stands accused of not one, but two violent homicides,” Torrez’s office said in a written statement.

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