After a couple of hours of deliberation, a jury in Santa Fe discovered Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan responsible of serving to former Española Metropolis Councilor Phillip Chacon evade police following a high-speed chase in March 2017.
The decision, which places Lujan’s future as sheriff in query, got here after a three-day retrial of the case. A state district choose in June declared a mistrial within the first case following a hung jury — deadlocked at 8-4 in favor of acquittal — on the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla.
“We’re excited that this jury really lastly did what was proper,” particular prosecutor Andrea Reeb mentioned after the decision. “To see that an precise jury understands that he was abusing his energy and he dedicated crimes and so they’re holding him accountable for it makes me really feel actually good in regards to the justice system.”
Lujan was charged with bribery of a witness and harboring or aiding a felon, every a felony cost. Reeb mentioned Lujan will both must resign or face authorized proceedings from the Lawyer Common’s Workplace displaying a grand jury he has been convicted of a felony.
After the primary trial, Reeb, of the Ninth Judicial District in Jap New Mexico, requested a transfer of Lujan’s retrial to Santa Fe — citing intensive media protection and what she mentioned was Lujan’s affect over potential jurors in Rio Arriba County.
Lujan, his two sons and protection lawyer Jason Bowles exited the courthouse instantly following the top of the proceedings with out remark. Bowles, who rested the protection case with out calling witnesses Tuesday, couldn’t be reached for remark late Wednesday evening.
In her closing assertion Wednesday, Reeb instructed the jury Lujan believes the regulation “doesn’t apply to him prefer it applies to all people else.”
“[He] loves the facility of being the elected sheriff, and he was elected to uphold the regulation, however he used his powers to thwart the regulation by serving to his pal, Phillip Chacon, get out of hassle,” she mentioned.
In her closing argument, Reeb argued Lujan knew Chacon had fled from Española metropolis police and went to his dwelling to assist him keep away from arrest, together with then-Rio Arriba County Deputy Cody Lattin.
Lujan and Lattin served a restraining order to Chacon filed by his spouse, who didn’t reside on the handle the place Chacon was. On the dwelling, Lujan instructed Chacon to pack a bag and drove him in his police car to his father’s home.
Lattin testified Lujan instructed him quite a few occasions over a number of days to not inform anybody the place that they had gone or what that they had performed, including he felt “intimidated” and feared retribution ought to he have come ahead.
Bowles argued his shopper was upholding the regulation, had no data the Española Police Division had issued a warrant for Chacon that evening and was merely trying to serve and adjust to the restraining order.
“All he did was do his job that he is required to do within the county,” Bowles instructed jurors in his closing argument. “And God forbid one thing had occurred that evening within the Chacon household; we could also be right here for one thing completely different.”
In her rebuttal, Reeb mentioned the restraining order didn’t require Chacon to be faraway from the house the place he was served, as his spouse was not residing there. The order merely referred to as for Chacon to stay no less than 100 yards away from his spouse. Nobody was within the dwelling on the time Lujan retrieved him, she mentioned.
She famous different suspicious conduct from the sheriff included asking to have a non-public dialog with dispatchers about Chacon’s pursuit, and requesting 911 data — however asking “nobody else get it.”
Bowles argued Lujan was being discreet as a result of he believed Española police could have violated the Protected Pursuit Act.
Following the decision, Reeb argued Lujan must be held in custody till his sentencing listening to, scheduled for Thursday morning. She cited his earlier conduct following the mistrial in Tierra Amarilla.
First Judicial District Decide Kathleen Ellenwood denied the request, however instructed Lujan she “didn’t need to hear of something” the subsequent morning.
Lujan continues to be awaiting trial on three misdemeanor counts of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer in one other case involving Chacon. Lujan allegedly confirmed up drunk at Chacon’s home in March 2020 as police had been executing a search warrant and tried to take over the operation from native officers and New Mexico State Police.
Reeb initially was requested to prosecute the case by the Lawyer Common’s Workplace when Lujan confronted his first misdemeanor cost of obstructing an officer in March 2020, she mentioned.
“The prosecutor there requested me if I might be prepared to return over right here and do that matter in Rio Arriba as a result of I knew nothing about this facet of the state and so they felt it might be good to have a prosecutor that did not have any ties to anyone or really feel any stress,” she mentioned.
“I really feel I’m a really unbiased prosecutor on the subject of this space. I simply offered the information of what I knew and I could not be intimidated by sure regulation enforcement officers as a result of I haven’t got any tie right here,” she added.
Lujan is the second Rio Arriba County sheriff in recent times to be convicted of legal costs. In 2014, former Sheriff Thomas Rodella and his son, Thomas Rodella Jr., had been convicted of violating the civil rights of a motorist, in line with federal courtroom paperwork. Tommy Rodella is serving a 10-year sentence in a federal jail in Texas.