Friday, May 27, 2005

Police Chief Plans to Fire Accused Cop

By T.J. Wilham, Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said Thursday that he plans to fire an officer accused of raping a 14-year-old girl once the undercover cop is indicted.
That could be done within the next 10 days, Schultz said.
In the meantime, officer Timothy J. Chavez, 33, is on paid administrative leave.
"It is worth the expense to pay him for the time being and have him at home," Schultz said. "We don't want him on any kind of an assignment."
On Thursday, Chavez made his first court appearance and pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnaping and criminal sexual penetration. A July court date was set.
Chavez was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly met a 14-year-old girl a month earlier on a telephone dating service, according to a Metropolitan Court criminal complaint. Chavez allegedly arranged a meeting at the girl's home and raped her on a couch.
Last week, the girl spotted Chavez at a restaurant and identified him as her attacker, and DNA taken from the girl's body matched the officer's, court records show.
Schultz could have placed the 13-year veteran on administrative duty, which would have allowed Chavez to work without being able to exercise police powers.
In the past, when officers have faced criminal charges, the administration has waited for an internal affairs report or for the criminal case to be adjudicated before taking disciplinary action.
Because of the "seriousness" of the allegations against Chavez, Schultz said action should be taken against Chavez once he is indicted. APD officials said it's common to take such action when an officer is accused of a felony.
Schultz also said investigators are trying to determine if Chavez was on duty when the alleged incident occurred.
According to department records, Chavez had taken half the day off. Schultz said he did not know the exact time the alleged rape occurred or when Chavez was off duty.
"This is already bad, but this (if Chavez were on duty) would make it extremely worse," Schultz said. "This is such an egregious violation of trust and of the law."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Access to Dating Service Easy; Company Officer Used Doesn't Verify Ages

By T.J. Wilham, Journal Staff Writer

The telephone dating service that was used by a decorated Albuquerque police officer to meet a 14-year-old girl he allegedly raped is easy to get on to.
All you need is a phone.
Live Links has a promotion that allows callers to sign up on a trial basis without paying any money. To sign up, callers do not have to give a credit card number, name, age, or address to start talking to another caller.
Female callers do not have to pay at all, even after trying it out.
On Tuesday, Albuquerque police arrested undercover vice officer Timothy Chavez, 33, on charges of kidnapping and criminal sexual penetration. Chavez, who was released by posting a $75,000 bond Wednesday, could not be reached for comment.
He is accused of meeting the girl on Live Links on April 22, asking if he could come over to her house and then allegedly raping her, according to court records.
The girl did not know who Chavez was until a month later when she saw him at a northeast restaurant and called police.
Live Links officials said Wednesday they have procedures in place to screen juveniles from getting onto the service.
A recorded notice on the service tells anyone younger than 18 years old to hang up. The company also has monitors who listen to recorded profiles and a hot line parents can call to have their phone numbers blocked from using the service.
"We are looking for people to meet people. We are not looking for people who want to meet little kids," said Sid Methner, business development manager for the Vancouver-based company. "We have a popular service, and kids like to spread it around school like it is a fad. ... Our question is where were her parents? That is the issue. That is the first line of defense against this."
Methner said the company is conducting an investigation into how the girl was able to get onto the service.
"Nobody wants to see this happen," he said. "This is not a service we want."
Albuquerque police officials said Wednesday that throughout his 13-year career Chavez received numerous awards and accommodations.
"It is saddening for any officer that has served with distinction and now faces grievous charges," said John Walsh, an APD spokesman. "But it is deeply saddening that there is a young person who has fallen victim to this type of crime."
In 1997, Chavez received a Medal of Meritorious Service from APD, according to Albuquerque police. In 1998, Chavez was presented with the Law Enforcement Officer/Hero of the Year Award by then-Mayor Jim Baca, according to Journal news reports. Police officials said Wednesday they do not have any record of that award, and it is not the department's official "Officer of the Year" award. But APD said there was only one Timothy Chavez on its roster at that time.
Chavez received the 1998 award for his involvement in thwarting a bank robbery while moonlighting at the bank. According to news reports, Chavez shot the would-be robber, who was holding a hostage at gunpoint.
Preventing teenagers from using a dating service such as Live Links is not easy, law enforcement officials said.
And Live Links legally did nothing wrong because it has the disclaimer, said Michael Cox, director of special prosecutions for the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.
"You can't shut them down because they do not have an affirmative way to screen minors," Cox said. "Is it a problem, I would say yes, but there is no factual way to check someone's identification over the telephone or a computer."
To get onto the service, the automated system asks for the person's gender and a promotional code, which is available to anyone who goes to the Live Links online site.
The caller is asked to record a profile and then listens to profiles of potential dates.
The company has local numbers in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.
City police detectives said that within the past nine years they have received only one complaint about a dating service. That came from a parent who was upset that their son had met an adult man over a telephone dating service in 1996.
"Parents need to be involved with their kids' lives as much as possible," said Don Roberts, a detective with the APD child exploitation unit. "Kids are smart. They are going to figure out how to get in. Not every 15- or 16-year-old kid is going to go, 'oh my gosh' and hang up (when they hear the disclaimer)."
Bob Hoever, deputy director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said dating services such as Live Links need to have some sort of a "safeguard" in place to screen children.
He recommended that the company require the use of credit cards.
"You really don't know who is on the other end, and sometimes the phone gives you a false sense of security," Hoever said.
Live Links, which has been in business since 1990, advertises on television, the Internet and in newspapers.
Methner said requiring callers to submit a credit card is not going to keep kids away. He said children will still find a way.
Methner said parents can call 1 (800) 984-6889 to have their home phone number blocked from using Live Links.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Abused Officer Awarded $300,000

Saturday, May 21, 2005
By Jeremy Pawloski
Journal Staff Writer

The state Department of Public Safety paid $300,000 to settle a tort claim brought by a black former State Police officer who, according to court records, was sprayed with Mace, handcuffed to a telephone pole and photographed by a group of fellow officers.
The tort claim was filed by former State Police officer Dexter Brock, who left the department in the wake of the May 2000 incident. The officers were on duty in Los Alamos during the Cerro Grande Fire at the time.
A State Police internal affairs report found that the incident was not racially motivated but that an officer involved "exercised exceptionally poor judgment."
That former officer, Jerome Sedillo, had filed a lawsuit asking for reinstatement as a police officer. But the lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month by Santa Fe District Judge James Hall.
According to a State Police internal affairs report marked "confidential" and filed by a DPS attorney in connection with Sedillo's lawsuit:
The State Police officers who were present in the area, "a public parking lot," at the time of the May 22, 2000, incident included officer Billy Martinez, officer Adrian Armijo, officer Jerome Sedillo, officer Richard Matthews, former officer Dexter Brock, and Sgt. Jim Long (then officer Long).
DPS spokesman Peter Olson said the officers named in Sedillo's internal affairs report are not necessarily the same officers who were ultimately found to have been involved in the incident involving Brock. He also said he could not eliminate any of the names.
He also declined to give specific details Friday about which officers were disciplined in relation to the incident or about what their punishments might have been.
Olson did say that discipline was meted out after the incident, and that "people resigned in relation to the incident."
"There were some resignations and some suspensions without pay and some reassignments," Olson said. "It's safe to say people were suspended for their actions or resigned to avoid further incident."
According to the internal affairs report, Sedillo was found to have sprayed Mace into Brock's patrol unit during the incident.
And, in an affidavit by State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado also filed in connection with Sedillo's reinstatement lawsuit, Maldonado wrote that Sedillo in fact Maced Brock "in order to force him out of his patrol unit, whereupon the officers subsequently drug him to a telephone pole and handcuffed him to the telephone pole, in the dark, and photographed him handcuffed to the telephone pole."
However, the internal affairs report also states that Sedillo "did not take an active role in either physically restraining or handcuffing" Brock.
According to the Internal Affairs report:
Sedillo said that officers were engaged in "bantering-like behavior, absent any racial remarks" during the incident. But the report also says the remarks to the black officer included: "Smile so I can see you," "What's up, my nigger?" and "You look like a survivor/victim from the fire."
At the conclusion of the investigation, the district attorney declined prosecution of Sedillo or the other officers involved in the incident, court records state.
Sedillo's attorney, Donald Sears, could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
Brock's father, the Rev. Jonathan Brock of the True Victory Church of God in Christ in Clovis, declined to discuss the incident when reached by telephone on Friday. Jonathan Brock said he would try to reach his son in Florida to see if he wanted to comment on the incident, but Dexter Brock had not contacted the Journal by late Friday afternoon.

Man Stunned With TASER Dies; Victim Fought With Officers

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

An Albuquerque man who was stunned multiple times with a TASER during an altercation with police died Friday at University of New Mexico Hospital.
Randy Martinez, 40, died about 2:45 p.m., hospital spokeswoman Cindy Foster said.
It's the second TASER-related death in the state, following one that occurred in March 2003.
Police suspect Martinez was under the influence of drugs or may have had a pre-existing medical condition, APD spokeswoman Trish Ahrensfield said. But a cause of death has yet to be determined.
"We're awaiting the results of toxicology and autopsy reports, and we've done a thorough investigation," Ahrensfield said. "We'll submit it to the DA's office, and they will say if we have done anything wrong."
Police were summoned about 8 p.m. Wednesday by Martinez's mother, who said her son was out of control at her 1709 53rd NW home.
Martinez became combative with police, Ahrensfield said. One of the responding officers shot him with a gun-like TASER, which shoots two quarter-inch darts that send 26 watts of electricity into a person.
A TASER shock typically renders a subject helpless. But Martinez pulled the darts from his body and continued to fight with police. He was stunned again and eventually fell unconscious.
APD started using TASERs in the early 1990s and has about 550 of the devices. Most patrol officers carry them.
The March 2003 death occurred when Albuquerque police used a TASER gun and pepper spray on a combative vandalism suspect.
According to a report by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 69 people nationwide have died after being shot by a TASER between 2000 and 2004.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

'Poor Judgment' in State Cop Incident

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
By Jeremy Pawloski
Journal Staff Writer

An African American State Police officer was sprayed with pepper Mace, handcuffed to a telephone pole and photographed by five other officers in May 2000 in Los Alamos during the Cerro Grande fire, according to court records.
A State Police internal affairs report found that the incident was not racially motivated but that an officer involved "exercised exceptionally poor judgment."
The report was filed as an exhibit in a state court lawsuit in which former State Police officer Jerome Sedillo was seeking his job back in 2003.
According to the report, Sedillo told investigators that "in his view, the entire event was simply a bunch of horseplay."
Sedillo said officers were engaged in "bantering-like behavior, absent any racial remarks" during the incident. But the report also says the remarks to the African American officer included: "Smile so I can see you," "What's up my nigger" or "You look like a survivor/victim from the fire."
The report found that Sedillo had sprayed the pepper Mace into the African American officer's car at the start of the incident.
Sedillo "was untruthful in his responses to the Internal Affairs investigators when questioned as to whether he sprayed the pepper mace into the officer's car," reads an affidavit from State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado.
Sedillo's lawsuit requesting reinstatement as a State Police officer was denied by a Santa Fe District judge on May 2.
Santa Fe District Judge James Hall determined that Maldonado's decision to not reinstate Sedillo after he resigned "was not arbitrary or capricious."
Sedillo's attorney, Donald Sears of Albuquerque, did not have an immediate comment when reached by telephone on Tuesday.
According to court records included in Sedillo's suit:
A criminal investigation into the allegations of Sedillo's participation in the May 22, 2000, incident "while in a parking lot within the 'burned out' area of Los Alamos" determined that Sedillo "did not take an active role in either physically restraining or handcuffing" the African American officer.
But Maldonado, in his affidavit, states that Sedillo "pepper maced" the officer "in order to force him out of his patrol unit, whereupon the officers subsequently drug him to a telephone pole and handcuffed him to the telephone pole, in the dark, and photographed him handcuffed to the telephone pole."
At the conclusion of the investigation, the district attorney declined prosecution of Sedillo or the four other officers involved in the incident, court records state.
Santa Fe District Attorney Henry Valdez said Tuesday that his recollection of the Los Alamos incident is that "we didn't feel there was sufficient evidence available to get a conviction."
In Sedillo's original lawsuit, he says he resigned to take another job before facing any discipline in this incident. He also said he knew of no punishment meted out to any of the other officers implicated.
Police spokesman Peter Olson said information on whether the officers were disciplined was unavailable Tuesday.
In its response to Sedillo's lawsuit, the state acknowledges paying a substantial settlement to the African American officer on a discrimination claim. That officer is no longer with the State Police.
Sedillo is one of four State Police officers whose on-duty misbehavior is a matter of public record in court filings available in Santa Fe District Court.
Three other officers, all currently on administrative leave, have part of their disciplinary records included in court exhibits that are part of a May 16 motion.
The motion filed by Albert Fugere, deputy chief counsel for DPS, asks the court to dismiss the officers' petition for a stay in their administrative disciplinary proceedings and to deny their request for an injunction that would halt those disciplinary proceedings.
"They want to derail the disciplinary process," Fugere said Tuesday.
The three State Police officers who are plaintiffs in the motion are Agent Stephen Montoya, Sgt. Edward Cortez and Lt. Paul Sanchez.
Montoya, Cortez and Sanchez are among a group of officers who are receiving pay while on administrative leave for allegations of wrongdoing, a fact that raised the ire of some lawmakers when it became public last year.
The May 16 motion to dismiss the officers' petition for a stay includes for the first time details of the allegations against them that are part of their DPS file.
According to DPS records in the motion:

Montoya was accused in June 2003 of not returning all of the money that was taken from a suspect during a narcotics seizure after the suspect was stopped on Interstate 25. The suspect claimed he had over $2,000 when he was brought in for questioning, but was given only $210 when his property was returned.
"During the course of this investigation, a polygraph examination was administered to Agent Montoya, which he failed, resulting in a subsequent allegation of untruthfulness being brought against him," reads the investigative file.
Montoya's attorney, Joseph Riggs of Albuquerque, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cortez was accused of claiming overtime for hours he did not work and of falsifying official department documents while on special assignment in Red River in May 2002.
"Additionally, it was alleged that he approved false or inaccurate payroll records for subordinates also working the special assignment," reads his file.
Cortez's attorney, Rob Perry, said Tuesday that the May 16 court filing detailing officers' disciplinary records amounts to a "smear campaign," and clouds the real issue— that DPS has left officers facing discipline in limbo by delaying the process.
Fugere said he had to file the exhibits that included parts of the officers' disciplinary records so that a judge could properly weigh the officers' interest against the public interest.
"When you read what these officers are charged with having done, the public's interest is in having these individuals not be police officers," Fugere siad.

Lt. Sanchez was accused of establishing "a sexual relationship with the wife of a man who (he) arrested and transported for incarceration."
Sanchez also was accused of harassing and battering the husband of the woman. The review of this incident revealed "a serious and similar pattern of alleged misconduct spanning many years, involving relationships with females, wherein Lieutenant Sanchez was alleged to have engaged in abusive and/or abusive behaviors."
Sanchez's attorney, Alan Maestas, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Brutality Claim Filed Against APD

By Megan Feldman, Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque Police Department's Internal Affairs is investigating allegations that police officers slammed a suspect to the ground and beat him with their fists and flashlights.
Allegations of excessive force were initially reported to Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland on April 11. Rowland is sending all citizen complaints to Internal Affairs while he investigates APD's handling of problems at the evidence room.
Agustin Juarez, who lives next door to the house where Tim Chism, 28, and James Romero, 43, were arrested, filed a witness statement with Rowland on April 11.
Juarez said in an interview with the Journal that he was at home when he heard yelling and loud noises.
He said he went to the window and saw several officers ordering a man to come out and put his hands up.
After the man complied and was handcuffed, the officers threw him to the ground and struck him repeatedly with their fists and flashlights, Juarez said in a statement submitted to Rowland.
The officers were yelling obscenities, the statement said.
Police spokesman John Walsh confirmed last week that Internal Affairs is looking into accusations of excessive force.
"Given the seriousness of the allegations, IA will be investigating," he said. Walsh declined further comment.
According to a Metropolitan Court criminal complaint, Chism and Romero refused to obey officers who responded to a drug traffic call in the 1200 block of Summer NW about 9:30 p.m. on April 10.
When officers entered the home, where Chism said he and his girlfriend were staying, they found drugs, a marijuana pipe and other drug paraphernalia within reach of Chism's child, according to the complaint. The girlfriend was not charged.
The criminal complaint states that Romero tried to flee the scene.
Chism is being held on charges of eluding a police officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and child endangerment.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Asset Forfeiture: Albuquerque Police Broke Law with Seized Funds 5/6/05


A City of Albuquerque audit of the city police department's use of federal drug forfeiture money has found that the department violated state law and federal guidelines by using seized drug money to pay more than $32,000 in rent for a private armored car company. Under the state constitution, municipalities are barred from making donations to private corporations.

Albuquerque police helicopter

The action endangers the Albuquerque Police Department's access to federal drug money, the auditors warned in a report released April 28. "Ultimately they could lose (the funds), but that would not be the first step... they could get a warning," said Carmen L. Kavelman, city internal auditor. "If you misuse federal funds, you are always in danger of losing them. They are designated for specific purposes."

Last year, the department received $730,000 as its share of federal drug seizure funds under a law passed in 1984. The department typically uses the money for training, drug buy cash, cars, and computers. But when it used some of the money to pay rent for LL&D, Inc., an armored car company, the department not only violated state law but federal regulations, auditors said.

The unusual arrangement was just the department trying to make amends for some Keystone Cops behavior. LL&D was made homeless after police virtually destroyed its facility during a 19-hour SWAT team standoff with a burglary suspect in September. Police unleashed so much tear gas and explosives in their effort to snare the suspect that the business could no longer operate, so the police allowed LL&D to move into a building the department had leased using the federal forfeiture money.

This is just the latest blow to a department already reeling from an evidence room scandal in which drugs, weapons, and cash have been reported missing in dozens of cases. The state of the evidence room was so bad, local prosecutors said, they couldn't figure out whom to charge. That affair led to the resignation of the police chief last month.

New Police Chief Ray Schultz does not want to lose that federal drug money, a spokesman said. "Chief Schultz will be very diligent that all practices, policies and procedures follow the guidelines set forth by the federal, state and local government. He is going to be examining this audit in detail and he is going to ensure each and every concern has been addressed for complete compliance."

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Former Bloomfield Officer Accused of Child Sexual Abuse

Associated Press

BLOOMFIELD — A former Bloomfield police officer has been charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor. Joseph Goodman, 54, is accused of molesting a child under the age of 13 at his home in Bloomfield, San Juan County sheriff's Detective Tyler Truby said. The allegations cover the course of a year beginning in 2004. Truby said the child told a family member, who called the sheriff's office. Goodman resigned from the Bloomfield force in February 2004, Chief Drew Standley said. Goodman had an initial appearance before Magistrate Wilma Charley. Officials said he bonded out of jail Monday.