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Thursday, March 24, 2011
Motion Argues Evidence Not Withheld
By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
The U.S. Attorney's Office in a motion filed late Wednesday argued that it did not withhold key evidence that might have changed the outcome in the December obstruction of justice trial of ex-APD officer Brad Ahrensfield.
Ahrensfield was convicted of the charge by a jury in federal court on Dec. 20 after the jury determined he had tipped off Shawn Bryan, a friend and military buddy of Ahrensfield's, about a 2009 investigation into allegations of narcotics and stolen merchandise trafficking out of Bryan's business.
Since the conviction, Ahrensfield's attorney, Jason Bowles, has sought in a series of motions to either get his client's indictment dismissed outright or at least secure a new trial for Ahrensfield.
Among Bowles' contentions is that the information Ahrensfield provided to Bryan about the investigation was "vague" and that Bryan received more specific information the following day.
The detailed information came to Bryan, according to Bowles, through a series of text messages sent to Bryan's wife, Erika Bryan, by the wife of Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White, who was then the Bernalillo County sheriff.
Bowles argues in his motions that information about the text messages was contained in transcripts of interviews of Bryan conducted by the FBI, and that the U.S. Attorney's Office withheld the transcripts.
The texts, according to Bowles, may have swayed the jury to believe Ahrensfield had not thwarted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt countered in Wednesday's response that: "Since the end of the re-trial, the United States has endeavored to confirm or dispel whether the text messages are available now or would have been available for introduction at the re-trial. The result of the government's investigation, which it shared with the defense more than a month ago, is that the text messages are not and would not have been available."
"Consequently, the myth that these text messages (to the extent they ever existed or contained the content that has been attributed to them) could have been produced at the re-trial or a future trial has now been debunked," Fouratt wrote.
In addition, he wrote, "In terms of relevance, the court already has intimated that the text messages were not relevant because they began no earlier than the day after (Ahrensfield) leaked the investigation to Shawn Bryan."
A local and federal law enforcement task force began investigating The Car Shop, where Ahrensfield's son worked, in September 2009 after getting tips that drugs and stolen goods were being trafficked out of the shop. A confidential informant bought drugs from one of the shop's mechanics on three occasions, according to authorities.
Even though Ahrensfield was not involved in the investigation, he learned about it and told Shawn Bryan, the shop's owner, about it. Bryan has not been charged.
Authorities said Ahrensfield, who was with APD for 15 years, derailed the investigation, which did not result in any charges.
Last April, Ahrensfield was acquitted of lying to the FBI, and a jury hung on the charge of obstruction of justice. The December trial ended with a conviction on the latter.
If U.S. District Judge James Parker decides, based on motions from Bowles and Fouratt's response, that the U.S. Attorney's Office withheld key evidence and acted in bad faith, both parties will be required to file additional briefs.