Disabled Rio Grande High student jailed for 6 hours - Albuquerque Journal

Disabled Rio Grande High student jailed for 6 hours

An attorney representing a 20-year-old Rio Grande High School student with Down syndrome who was arrested Wednesday after police allege he choked a classmate to near unconsciousness, said she’s incensed that the young man had to spend six hours in jail because a deputy district attorney would not agree to release him to his mother.

“They had absolutely no reason to do anything other than agree to release him,” attorney Kari T. Morrissey said Thursday.

Joshua Caldwell
CALDWELL: 20-year-old has Down syndrome

A spokeswoman for 2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Deputy District Attorney Edna Sprague did not oppose a Metropolitan Detention Center attorney’s request to ask a judge to release the student to his mother, she simply declined to take a position on his release.

According to court records, sheriff’s deputies were called to Rio Grande High School about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in regard to an attack on a student.

Witnesses told investigators that Joshua Caldwell, who has Down syndrome, walked up behind a female student during physical education class, put his arm around her neck and began choking her.

The girl struggled to free herself, but was unable to do so. A special education teacher had to pull Caldwell, who is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs about 250 pounds, off of the girl. Caldwell was then escorted out of the gym and taken to the South Valley school’s security office until police arrived.

School officials told police that Caldwell had been involved in three separate altercations with teachers this month and that he was becoming more aggressive.

Caldwell was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center about 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to jail spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell. He faces a felony charge of aggravated assault, according to court records.

Detention Center Chief Ramon Rustin said the jail contacted the DA’s Office requesting support for a “compassionate release” for Caldwell, but did not receive it.

“We can deal with some special needs, but there are individuals that get arrested who, because of disabilities or injuries or medical situations, we just don’t have the infrastructure to care for them,” Rustin said. “… Whenever we have these individuals that we can’t accommodate, we’ll go to the criminal justice system and ask for some alternative.”

“We called for their support in going to the judge in an attempt to get a compassionate release; we did not get their support,” Powdrell added. “We cannot release anyone without a direct order from the court, unless bond is posted.”

Rustin said Caldwell was held in the center’s special housing unit by himself and that an officer was assigned to watch over him.

Powdrell said Caldwell’s bond – set at $25,000 cash or surety – was posted Wednesday night and he was released about 10 p.m.

Morrissey said Sprague had been asked to support Caldwell’s release pending a first-appearance hearing.

“Those hearings take place within 24 to 48 hours of the person’s release. So all they were asking was to release him back to his mother for the next 24 to 48 hours, until a judge can hear this and make some educated decisions,” Morrissey said. “The deputy district attorney declined that request.”

“The decision to deny that request is unthinkable,” Morrissey said, adding that there are law enforcement protocols in place to prevent such incidents.

Morrissey said when she contacted Brandenburg on Thursday morning and “asked for some relief,” it was “granted immediately.”

Morrissey said a hearing to determine conditions of Caldwell’s release pending adjudication is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today before Metropolitan Court Judge Daniel Ramczyk.

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