Prominent attorney Sam Bregman named as Bernalillo County DA - Albuquerque Journal

Prominent attorney Sam Bregman named as Bernalillo County DA

Sam Bregman

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

Attorney Sam Bregman has litigated some of New Mexico’s highest-profile criminal and civil cases, served as an Albuquerque city councilor, owned a professional basketball team and fathered a two-time World Series champion.

Now Bregman can add Bernalillo County district attorney to the list.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that she had chosen Bregman from among 14 applicants to succeed former 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez, who was sworn in Sunday as New Mexico attorney general.

In his decades-long legal career, Bregman also has represented police and corrections officers in controversial criminal cases and has filed lawsuits against law enforcement agencies he will represent as Bernalillo County’s top prosecutor.

Among Bregman’s pending cases is a lawsuit filed on behalf of the widow of New Mexico State Police officer Darian Jarrott, 28, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in 2021. The suit names the state Department of Public Safety as a defendant and alleges negligence.

No state and local law enforcement agencies responded to the Journal’s questions about Bregman’s suits against them.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina said that he looked forward to a “strong partnership” with Bregman to “fix the broken criminal justice system.”

“We are making changes at APD to build the strongest criminal cases possible so the District Attorney can effectively prosecute offenders,” Medina said.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said he is optimistic that Bregman’s “experience on City Council combined with his work with our team at APD bodes well for a tough on crime partnership to help make our streets safer.”

Matt Chavez, Albuquerque district defender for the Law Offices of the Public Defender, said he looked forward to “the fresh perspective” Bregman will bring to the office.

“We are hopeful that we can work with him and his team to target the root causes of crime while staying committed to fairness and the constitution,” Chavez said.

Bregman did not immediately respond Tuesday to phone messages seeking comment about his appointment.

In a written statement issued by the Governor’s Office, Bregman said he was honored.

“I realize the great responsibility of the role and am committed to relentlessly pursuing justice for the residents of Bernalillo County,” Bregman said in the statement.

Lujan Grisham said she believes Bregman will bring a “fresh perspective” to the job given his extensive experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney.

“I am confident that he will serve as a dedicated and effective district attorney focused on improving public safety and supporting the people of Bernalillo County,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement announcing the appointment.

Bregman will leave the office after serving the remaining two years of Torrez’s term, Lujan Grisham’s office said.

“He will not run for reelection to the office, focusing on the office’s work to combat crime and build stronger, safer communities,” the statement said.

Bregman is known for his outspoken style both in politics and in the courtroom. In his three decades as a trial attorney, Bregman has crossed paths many times with law enforcement officers and agencies.

Sam Bregman, left, shakes hands with retired District Court Judge William Lang, right, as he is sworn in as Bernalillo County district attorney on Tuesday. With Bregman is his wife, Jackie Bregman. (Courtesy Nancy Laflin)

He represented two Albuquerque Police Department officers – SWAT team member Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy – who were tried in the shooting death of 38-year-old James Boyd, a homeless man camping in the Sandia foothills in 2014.

The two officers faced second-degree murder charges for the shooting in 2015 but their 15-day trial ended with a jury deadlocked 9-3 for acquittal. Torrez said in 2017 he would not retry the officers, saying he doubted another jury would reach a different outcome.

Last year, Bregman represented one of two Metropolitan Detention Center officers in the 2019 death of an inmate who died in custody.

A 2nd Judicial District Court jury in October found Bregman’s client, Jonathan Sandoval, and his supervisor, Lt. Keith Brandon, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Vicente Villela.

Bregman also litigated a whistleblower lawsuit in 2019 alleging that former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales retaliated against a deputy who testified against him, his undersheriff and the undersheriff’s son.

Bregman asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate Gonzales for witness intimidation in the case. The lawsuit was settled in November 2019 when Bernalillo County agreed to pay the former deputy $49,000.

Bregman has owned and operated The Bregman Law Firm since 1998, his résumé shows. He served as Albuquerque City Councilor for District 4 from 1995 to 1999.

He also owned and operated the New Mexico Thunderbirds, an NBA D-League basketball team in Rio Rancho from 2006 to 2011. He is the father of professional baseball player Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros.

A 1989 graduate of the University of New Mexico Law School, Bregman served as an assistant district attorney in the office he now leads from 1995 to 1997.

He has served as chairman of the New Mexico Racing Commission since 2019 and is a former state Democratic Party chairman.

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