NM Civil Guard records destroyed - Albuquerque Journal

NM Civil Guard records destroyed

Bryce Leroy Spangler Provance is seen in a video of a deposition taken March 3, 2022. (Bernalillo County District Attorney)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office’s attempt to force an extremist militia organization to turn over records about its membership and activities took an “extraordinary” twist last month when the former head of the group admitted in a deposition that he had intentionally destroyed the documents, poured bleach on his laptop hard drive and then burned it.

During a 12-minute deposition in Albuquerque, Bryce Leroy Spangler Provance didn’t show up empty handed. He provided a piece of paperbag that had a drawing of the devil in flames ruling over stick figures under the heading “Georgetown Law,” and a crude sexual drawing involving a figure labeled, “Your Mom.”

“It was to make me smile while I had to look at you,” Provance told Albuquerque attorney Mark Baker, who had been trying to question Provance as part of a civil lawsuit filed in 2020 against the New Mexico Civil Guard by 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez with the help of attorneys from Georgetown University Law Center. Baker’s firm is representing Torrez’s office.

Video of the testimony shows Provance replied to most questions by stating “no comment” or by citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He then abruptly left, adding, “Have a lovely day.”

“Provance’s spectacle … was just the culmination of NMCG record of obstruction,” stated a motion filed Tuesday by Torrez’s attorneys asking a state district judge for a default judgment against the Civil Guard, whose members were present during the June 15, 2020, protest at the statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, near Old Town.

Torrez’s lawsuit alleges the presence of the heavily armed group, whose stated mission is to “provide rapid local lawful response to emergency and dangerous situations,” helped incite a non-fatal shooting at the protest and violated New Mexico law.

The lawsuit wants the organization and its organizers to be permanently barred from organizing any militia group that would engage in unlawful policing or paramilitary activity in violation of the New Mexico Constitution.

“The real goal in all of this is to stop armed extremists from organizing, recruiting, and directing their members to engage in activity that is exclusively reserved for the police or in extraordinary circumstances, the National Guard,” Torrez told the Journal on Tuesday.

Provance, who is a convicted felon, said he founded the group and was designated as its representative to appear for the deposition and answer relevant questions. But he also said he had been forced out of the group “based on my past,” although he didn’t say when or provide more details.

“We didn’t get very far in that deposition. It was pretty extraordinary,” said Torrez, who said since the filing of the lawsuit, the New Mexico Civil Guard has kept “a very low profile. We have not seen them show up armed at any additional protests but we never know if they’re going to show up again.”

Civil Guard members have previously told the Albuquerque Journal they weren’t responsible for what happened during the June 2020 incident.

The shooter, Steven Baca, wasn’t part of the militia and is facing charges of aggravated battery (great bodily harm).

In the response to Torrez’s lawsuit, the group’s members contend they have a common-law right to keep the peace, carry weapons and assemble under the First Amendment.

Provance said that after he was forced from the group, he destroyed all documentation, shredded and burned all membership files and those related to the structure of the guard.

“I also poured bleach on the hard drive of my laptop and then burned it,” he added.

He said he felt “bad after getting removed from the militia group, so I disconnected from the world, and I actually lived in a camper for a while.”

Meanwhile, six Civil Guard members have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department contending their civil rights were violated by police during and after the violence that erupted during what organizers originally described as a “Prayer Gathering for the Removal of the Statue at Tiguex Park.” No militia members were charged criminally, but several were detained and questioned by police.

Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection called the lawsuit the nation’s first civil suit by a district attorney to protect the public from paramilitary forces.

Over the past year, as part of its lawsuit, the DA’s Office has sought information about the guard, its members and its activities, but has been stymied along the way by delays as “NMCG has repeatedly flouted its discovery obligations,” stated the DA motion filed Tuesday.

According to the motion asking a judge to rule against the militia group, the destroyed documents could have “borne on the state’s allegations that NMCG organized itself as an unlawful military unit whose members falsely assumed law enforcement functions.” The motion also asks for sanctions and the award of attorney’s fees and costs.

Albuquerque attorney Paul Kennedy, a former state Supreme Court justice who was present at the deposition representing Provance, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

During the videotaped deposition, Provance, who resides in New Mexico, also provided the DA’s attorney with a torn piece of paper that looked like the cover of the book, “Behold a Pale Horse,” which was written by a wanted national militia figure who died in a shootout with law enforcement officers in Arizona in 2001.

“What is the subject matter of the book?” Baker asked.

“No comment,” Provance said.

“Based on what?”

“Fifth Amendment right,” Provance replied.

Provance also brought to the deposition a copy of portions of the Declaration of Independence, but wouldn’t comment about it, again citing the Fifth Amendment.

Asked by Baker whether he thought that identifying the Declaration of Independence would incriminate him, or “pose the possibility of incriminating you,” Provance replied, “No comment.”

At one point he said he was “a free man under the Constitution,” and as the founder of the militia organization retained all its documents.

“And since I was the last individual, I reckon, to be served with this lawsuit, I did not know about the provisions to retain any of the documentation,” he added.

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