Police Abuse

Judge Removes DA from Albuquerque Police Murder Case over Conflict of Interest

Cops accused DA of trying to bribe the victims of burglaries committed by her son.

|

lapel cam

Last week District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield removed the Albuquerue district attorney, Kari Branbenburg, from the state's murder case against two police officers who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd last March in an incident caught on lapel video. The next month the Department of Justice completed a multi-year investigation, finding a pattern and practice of civil rights abuse at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

In 2012, Brandenburg discontinued the practice of sending police shootings to grand juries. There had been 24 police shootings in the two years prior, 17 fatal, with none ruled unjustified. Sandy Keith and Dominique Perez, charged with the murder of Boyd, where the first officers charged with a crime related to a police shooting since then.

But the removal hinge on a conflict of interest based not on the prosecutor's office's working relationship with the APD, on whom it relies for cases to prosecute, but on accusations made against the DA by police. KRQE reports:

Attorneys for those cops [charged with murder] wanted Brandenburg to give the case to another prosecutor, citing a conflict of interest. The decision to ban Brandenburg and her office, hinges on a case that Albuquerque police forwarded to the attorney general, accusing the district attorney of attempting to bribe victims of burglaries allegedly committed by her son.

Brandenburg denied the accusations, saying her office can fairly handle the case.

The judge said media coverage of that case could create the public perception that Brandenburg had a conflict of interest in filing murder charges against Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez.

"There was a strong appearance that she was prosecuting this for other reasons other than a crime has been committed," Sam Bregman, Attorney for Keith Sandy, told News 13.

Today Brandeburg appointed a private attorney, Randi McGinn, as special prosecutor after asking multiple state prosecutors. Via the Associated Press:

During a news conference Thursday, Brandenburg announced that her office had looked far and wide, asking the other 12 district attorney across the state, the attorney general, and some other private attorneys if they would prosecute the officers. Most could not do it because of resource limitations and other commitments. Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote back that his office "shares some of the same conflicts that caused" Hadfield to disqualify Brandenburg.

McGinn wasn't at the press conference but Brandenburg read a statement from her that said "every Albuquerque citizen, whether a homeless man in the mountains or a police officer patrolling the streets, should be allowed the due process protections afforded by the same law."

The decision to remove Brandenburg does not affect the murder charges but Perez's attorney said the cop was "ecstatic" Brandenburg wasn't prosecuting him. A status conference is set for May 27.

NEXT: Mike Huckabee Attacks Chris Christie Over Social Security and Medicare

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. asking the other 12 district attorney across the state, the attorney general, and some other private attorneys if they would prosecute the officers. Most could not do it because of resource limitations and other commitments

    Uh huh. Translated to “we don’t want to prosecute cops, all it will get us is the animus of the police”.

    Watch this turn into the cops not being tried and being in a limbo (but not in jail) because there is no one to prosecute. A new type of immunity for police created right there in Albuquerque.

    1. This is pretty similar to how prosecutors used to refuse to prosecute mobsters for fear of their reprisals. Same story, different costume.

      1. All I’m saying is that this feels like a brand new tactic by police lawyers to provide their clients with virtually total immunity, in this case by creating a limbo situation where their clients can’t be tried and therefore can’t be convicted. I mean, why wouldn’t they try it? How can they lose? They can’t get in trouble for it.

        1. In theory, if we lived in a country where the rule of law meant a damn, this could open them up to some sort of federal prosecution, could it not? The whole thing amounts to a conspiracy to obstruct justice…though I could see how that might be difficult to prove…

          1. We don’t live under the rule of law, so…it doesn’t really matter. It’s entirely possible that they could get away with such a thing if the other powers that be decide to let them. Thus…rule of man.

  2. OT = Spot Where the Criminal Went Wrong!

    #1 – Kidnap Child
    #2 – Leave Child With Babysitter

    1. That’s sort of a weird inverse of the plot of Cani Arrabbiati.

      1. nice.

        That reads like a Jim Thompson story. Good reversal at the end. “usual suspects”-ish. begging for a remake i’d think. tho, like The Getaway*, would probably have to dial the awfulness down by a few magnitudes.

        1. The movie is one of Bava’s best, in my opinion (Bava did some real stinkers like Planet of the Vampires that look great but are just terrible story-wise, but also did stuff like this or Baron Blood). A remake would probably suck; this one is very dark and has the twist ending. And the performances are quite good too.

          I don’t even remember if I watched the remake of The Getaway. Probably. But the original is Peckinpah, so any remake will not compare regardless. The gun battle in the stairwell where Steve McQueen shoots the guy in the face as they guy tries to protect his face with his hands? Unreal.

          1. Remake was okay (Alec Baldwin and his wife?), but you are right, nothing beats Peckinpaw (maybe Way of the Gun is up there).

            They always talk about defensive wounds when they find bodies with palms shot through.

          2. The original getaway is a fucking fantastic movie, it should be mandatory viewing for all.

            1. Plus ali macgraw is all kinds of hawt.

              1. But not as hawt as Jacqueline Bisset.

                1. Best wet t-shirt in the world…The Deep

            2. Pretty much all Peckinpah movies are awesome, and should be watched by all. Even Osterman Weekend is…ok. My personal favorite is Straw Dogs. Bear trap FTW.

              1. I personally liked the wild bunch. Such a badass movie. Also killer elite is awesome.

                1. Both great. Also, Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Cross of Iron, etc. Also, Peckinpah directed two Julian Lennon videos (including “It’s Much Too Late for Goodbyes”) just before his death.

                  Peckinpah was one of the greatest. He even helped create The Rifleman.

          3. “I don’t even remember if I watched the remake of The Getaway. Probably. But the original is Peckinpah, so any remake will not compare regardless.’

            I wasn’t really clear.

            What i meant was that even *pekinpah* had to dial down the violence/nihilism of the book by 3/5ths to make the movie work. The book is way more cold-blooded, morally soul-sucking.

            The ‘remake’ (which i didn’t see either) was probably so diluted you didn’t even catch a buzz. tho i dont actually know.

    2. Sounds like great material for a Babysitters Club book.

  3. …where the first officers charged with a crime related to a police shooting since then.

    That’s their defense. The culture had been set whereby police were given practical immunity for shooting the public. You can’t suddenly yank that away. You can’t change policy and not tell the shooters.

  4. hinges on a case that Albuquerque police forwarded to the attorney general, accusing the district attorney of attempting to bribe victims of burglaries allegedly committed by her son.

    Shouldn’t she be removed from office while this is being investigated? Then the asst. DA can prosecute.

  5. I’ve done a bit of reading on this as it’s developed, and I still can’t say what’s really going on here. Mostly because there is no way to determine the timeline on exactly who began to think of charging the other first: APD or Brandenburg.

    If you believe the APD, they were wrapping this investigation up just as the DA announced she would file charges against the cops. Heavy implications she only filed charges as leverage to hush the APD, to her son’s benefit. Witness that she had no prior inclinations to prosecute cops for anything, despite abundant opportunities to do so.

    If you believe the DA, she approached the chief two months before filing charges, as a professional courtesy. Within a month, she and her son were under investigation, and a detective supposedly said on recording the case was “super-weak” and “not going anywhere” but that it would nuke her career. Heavy implications this was the cops utilizing the old mafia trick of intimidating the DA into leaving them strictly alone, if they know what’s good for them.

    Does anyone have more enlightening info? This looks like one of those situations where the best outcome is they kill each other in a death match.

    1. Should have had a special prosecutor from the get go. All cop cases should do that, too much collusion with the PD most places — they are hand and glove.

      Sad this is happening in the state that just passed that awesome civil forfiture law.

  6. Sort of shocked there has been nothing in these pages about the beatdown a man in San Bernardino County (practically in Reason’s backyard) suffered at the hands of 10 sheriff deputies. http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/10/…..e-beating/

    His crime: running away when the deputies arrived to serve a warrant.

    A news helicopter caught it all (no idea if the copter was just randomly there at the same time or if they heard about the chase while in the air over a police frequency and went to check it out). That news media managed to catch this abuse as it occurred is one of the more amazing aspects to me.

    1. Pretty sure this was blogged when it happened.

  7. Albuquerque? Was any blue meth involved?

  8. I find it interesting that Reason is failing to name the son in question. Justin Koch, one of the Koch brothers, is the burglary suspect at the center of the recusal controversy.

    1. It didn’t need to be said. The sun never sets on Koch scandals.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.