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APD Says Daskalos Asked for Breaks

By T.J. Wilham
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    Right before he was arrested as a suspected drunken driver, developer Jason Daskalos allegedly asked an Albuquerque police officer to "give him a break" because he "gave" a building to the mayor.
    Mayor Martin Chávez said Monday he has never given favors to Daskalos.
    "It's not right for him to say that," Chávez said. "Nobody gets special treatment from my administration, not even my mother."
    The comments attributed to Daskalos were included in a police officer's deposition filed by defense attorneys seeking to have evidence in the DWI case thrown out.
    According to campaign finance reports, Chávez used a Daskalos building in Nob Hill as his campaign headquarters in 2005.
    The campaign paid $4,500 in rent for the building, and, shortly afterward, Jason Daskalos Properties gave the campaign a check for $4,500. An additional $3,000 in rent was forgiven by a Daskalos company, La Sierra Construction. That was listed as an "in-kind contribution" on campaign finance reports.
    The deposition of APD officer Josh Otzenberger was filed last week in Metro Court as a part of a motion asking the court to toss out all evidence obtained by APD. The motion argues police violated Daskalos' Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
    Daskalos, an amateur race car driver with plans to go pro, was spotted speeding in his Porsche by Otzenberger in August. The officer tried to catch the developer and eventually spotted the vehicle parked at a home.
    According to police reports, Otzenberger approached the car and opened the door, activating an alarm. Daskalos came out of the home, and Otzenberger reported that he smelled alcohol on Daskalos' breath.
    "He was just asking for breaks, to let him go, he was already home, he won't drive anymore, things like that. I said 'no man, you got to go to jail,' '' Otzenberger said in the deposition.
    "And he said, 'Come on man, give me a break. I just gave a ... building to and ate dinner with the mayor' or something like that."
    Chávez told the Journal he didn't recall having dinner with Daskalos that night but said it was possible.
    Otzenberger also testified that Daskalos mentioned several police officers by name, including Benjamin Kirby.
    Police officials have said Kirby sneaked Daskalos from the department's B.A.T. mobile after Otzenberger arrested Daskalos.
    Kirby, who was off-duty at the time, has since been fired. Two other officers have been suspended for their involvement.
    Robert Gorence, Daskalos' attorney, would not comment on the statements allegedly made by his client because "they are not remotely relevant to an officer violating the Constitution."
    Gorence argued in his motion that Otzenberger violated Daskalos' rights by opening the car door without a warrant. He is asking the court to throw out any evidence obtained after Otzenberger's action, which would include virtually all of APD's case.
    "Any well-trained officer should know that you can't do what he did," Gorence said. "The Constitution applies to the guilty, the innocent, the rich, the poor, the arrogant and the humble and people we might not like."
    APD spokesman John Walsh said it is common for officers to activate alarms by opening car doors.
    "It was incumbent on the officer to continue his investigation, and he was duty bound to do so," Walsh said. "Not knowing if this was a stolen vehicle, a reckless driver or something more hideous, he had to continue his investigation."
    Walsh said he was confident the case would move forward.
    Trial is scheduled for Feb. 6 before Judge Julie Altwies.
    The B.A.T. mobile incident sparked an inquiry into Daskalos' driving record, which revealed that since 1988, he had received 36 traffic citations in Bernalillo County, 20 of which were dismissed.
    An assistant city attorney, who was a friend of Daskalos' and signed off on some of his dismissals, resigned amid an investigation by the city.
    Of the nine citations he was convicted on in Bernalillo County, none ever appeared on his official state driving record.
    Metro Court officials say the information was appropriately sent to the state Motor Vehicle Department; MVD says it never received it.