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Defense seeks Chan murder charge dismissal for ‘withheld’ phone pics, whistleblower allegations

SANTA FE – The defense team for a former Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy, who admits fatally shooting his law enforcement partner in Las Cruces in 2014, wants the murder case dismissed based in part on evidence from the slain deputy’s cellphone.

Lawyers for ex-deputy Tai Chan, facing a first-degree murder charge, allege in part that a “secret vault” was found in the phone of slain Deputy Jeremy Martin that contained sexual text messages to both men and women, as well as photos of Martin wearing women’s underwear.

The phone’s contents allegedly showing that Martin had a secret life would have helped the defense when prosecutors had Martin’s wife testify about his “image of a good family man” in Chan’s trial last year that ended in a mistrial, the new defense motion says.

The phone “is an example of the kind of evidence the police intentionally withheld from us,” John Day, one of Chan’s attorneys, said Wednesday.

Chan, then 27, shot and killed fellow Santa Fe County Deputy Martin, 29, on Oct. 28, 2014, at the Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces, where the two deputies were staying while returning from delivering a prisoner to Arizona. Chan claims self-defense, saying the two argued after drinking at a local bar. A June trial in Las Cruces ended with a hung jury and a re-trial is set for next month.

In their motion to dismiss filed Wednesday alleging “outrageous government conduct,” defense attorneys Day and Tom Clark claim “the state failed to disclose the contents of the phone of Jeremy Martin that revealed crippling evidence of Jeremy Martin’s secretive, alter ego life.”

The state maintained Martin’s phone contained only innocuous messages, says the motion. But the defense lawyers say that after the phone was sent to an expert during the trial’s second week, it was found to have “a series of text messages between Martin and other women, and other men of a sexually suggestive and flirtatious nature.” There was also a series of photographs of Martin “in sexually suggestive poses,” the motion states.

The defense “could have tracked down witnesses and investigated further the depths of this life to potentially reveal admissible evidence,” the motion says.

It also notes allegations that recently became public as part of a whistleblower lawsuit. A Las Cruces Police Department detective maintains her department obstructed her investigation of the shooting by withholding resources and the assistance of a forensic investigator because she had reported sexual misconduct within the department.

In addition, the motion cites an April 4 letter from Doña Ana County District Attorney Mark D’Antonio to Las Cruces Police Chief Jamie Montoya blasting the chief over issues raised in the whistleblower suit.

D’Antonio wrote, “The recent situation involving the Tai Chan murder case, in which you intentionally refused to share critical information in a pending and active prosecution with my office, is outrageous and an affront to justice in our community.”

D’Antonio said neither the detective who filed the whistleblower suit nor the police department ever notified him of the suit or of any related internal affairs investigation, which “is deplorable and devoid of any rational thinking. The facts of the suit suggest possible police corruption, obstruction of justice, and the mishandling of a major case involving the alleged cold-blooded assassination of a police officer. … Your department’s failure to disclose any information in this matter in a timely manner has made our prosecution more difficult. In addition, you have provided defense counsel alternative methods to attack the State’s evidence.”

A spokesman for D’Antonio said the office had not seen the defense motions and had no comment “at least until we do.” A police department spokesman did not return a phone request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

A separate defense motion filed Wednesday asks that D’Antonio be disqualified “because he’s a witness” as a result of the letter critical of the Las Cruces police investigation, said Day.

The defense has sent its own letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque asking the office to investigate the Las Cruces police, with D’Antonio’s letter to the police chief attached.

“Our own investigation of the LCPD investigation into the Tai Chan matter shows remarkable and suspicious instances of a case intentionally mishandled from the beginning, lending credence to the corruption allegations by the detective and the District Attorney,” says the defense attorneys’ letter seeking a federal probe.