Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Lawyers for two Albuquerque police officers facing murder charges in the shooting death of homeless camper James Boyd say District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office should be disqualified from prosecuting the men because she has “serious conflicts of interest” – including the fact that Brandenburg herself is under investigation by APD.
Brandenburg’s office charged officer Dominique Perez and retired detective Keith Sandy with open counts of murder this week. A judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to bind Perez and Sandy over for trial, and if so, which charge or charges they should face – first-degree murder, second-degree murder and/or manslaughter.
Defense attorneys Sam Bregman and Luis Robles on Thursday filed documents asking District Judge Alisa Hadfield to disqualify Brandenburg and her entire office from prosecuting the case.
“The politically charged nature of this case creates the impression of bias or impartiality that is imputed to the District Attorney’s entire office in light of the potential charges against District Attorney Brandenburg,” the motion states. “Recusal is appropriate, especially in light of the District Attorney’s personal conflict of interest with the Albuquerque Police Department.”
APD has investigated Brandenburg for possible bribery and witness intimidation in connection with an APD burglary and larceny investigation involving her 26-year-old son, Justin Koch. The detective and his supervisor found probable cause to charge Brandenburg but sent the case to the Attorney General’s Office for review in November. That review is still pending.
Brandenburg has denied any wrongdoing.
Her son has not been charged with the burglary and larcenies outlined in the report forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office, but he is awaiting trial on larceny charges in Sandoval County.
Kari Brandenburg has said her son has a serious drug addiction problem, but that she has practiced “tough love” and done nothing improper.
Koch was recently released from the Metropolitan Detention Center on a shoplifting charge when someone posted 10 percent of his $2,500 bail. Kari Brandenburg has said she has refused to post bail for him.
Boyd was shot after a four-hour standoff with numerous officers in the Sandia Foothills last March. He was armed with two small knives but in video of the shooting he appears to be turning away when he was fatally wounded.
Bregman says his client feared for the safety of a K-9 officer who was approaching Boyd with his dog and that the decision to charge the officers was a “terrible”one.
The motion also cites other alleged conflicts of interest including that the lead prosecutor in the case against the officers, Deputy District Attorney Deborah DePalo, was also the “on-scene” adviser from the District Attorney’s Office in the Boyd shooting.
“Debbie DePalo is going to be called as a witness in our case,” Bregman said. “How can she prosecute it?”
DePalo’s involvement in the prosecution was cited Wednesday in a letter from City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry to Brandenburg as a reason for barring another assistant district attorney from a fatal officer-involved shooting Tuesday night involving a convicted felon firing a gun and wearing body armor.
The motion by Bregman and Robles cites Perry’s letter as further evidence that there is a public perception of bias on Brandenburg’s part in the Boyd case.
Perry in his letter requested Brandenburg appoint a special prosecutor from outside her office to advise police investigating officer-involved shootings.
“It doesn’t matter how strong or weak the case is, it is public knowledge that she is under investigation for very serious crimes by officers from the Albuquerque Police Department,” Bregman said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The overarching issue here is that the justice system is only as good as the public perception of the justice system.”
Brandenburg’s spokeswoman said in an email that the office was “reviewing the motion and will gladly provide comment next week.”
She also said the district attorney would comment on Perry’s letter next week.
At a press conference in November, Brandenburg denied any wrongdoing in connection with the APD investigation involving her son. She said at the press conference at the office of Albuquerque attorney Peter Schoenburg that the first she knew of the APD investigation was when it was published in the Journal and said she had never been interviewed by APD.
The report, compiled by APD’s Burglary Unit, includes interviews of burglary victims who said they had either been reimbursed for thefts committed by their friend Justin Koch or promised reimbursement by Brandenburg after the crimes were committed in 2013.
According to the APD report, one couple said they had been promised reimbursement for their losses if they didn’t tell police or pursue charges against her son.
Perry said the city and district attorney should work together to avoid the conflict of having prosecutors advising and interviewing officers at the scene of a shooting and later prosecuting those same officers.
The motion also states that Perez and Sandy have been witnesses for the District Attorney’s Office in felony and misdemeanor cases as police officers, creating yet another conflict that should lead to the disqualification of Brandenburg’s office from the case.
DA’s Office: Comment coming next week
A spokeswoman for District Attorney Kari Brandenburg on Wednesday evening said the office hadn’t received a letter from City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry asking that a special prosecutor be appointed to deal with fatal police shootings.
Therefore, the office couldn’t comment.
Perry provided the Journal with a receipt from the District Attorney’s Office showing the letter was delivered and signed for on Wednesday at 4:16 p.m.
The Journal forwarded the receipt Thursday morning to district attorney spokesman Kayla Anderson, who replied by email that the office still had not received the letter.
About 10 minutes later, at 11:28 a.m. Thursday, Anderson said the letter was found at the front receptionist desk. She said Brandenburg would comment on it next week.