ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The former cop found not guilty of killing his wife and staging her death as a suicide in a criminal case is now trying to get out of the civil case. And if he doesn’t, he wants taxpayers to pay for it.
All this comes on what would have been his wife's 32nd birthday.
Levi Chavez filed court documents Friday asking a judge to dismiss the civil lawsuit or put the city on the hook for the costs, something the city says is not going to happen.
“I don't care. Bring the civil case on,” Chavez said as he left court in July after his acquittal. “I'm not guilty. I'm innocent.”
But now it seems the former Albuquerque Police Department officer is not ready for the civil case after all.
Chavez was found not guilty in the criminal case where he was accused of killing Tera Chavez with his APD-issued gun in 2007. His criminal attorney argued her death was in fact a suicide.
But Tera's family also filed a civil case against Levi in 2008 that was put on hold during the criminal case. Now, he is asking a judge to dismiss it.
Chavez cites his own lack of legal training, as he plans to defend himself, and the fact that he is financially destitute, something his attorney in the criminal case also suggested last month.
“There is a mammoth debt,” David Serna said. “He and his family are in a lot a lot of debt.”
While prosecutors in Chavez's criminal case had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he killed Tera, the requirements aren't quite as tough in a civil case.
“I would say typically that's what people think, yes,” said Brad Hall, the attorney representing Tera Chavez's family.
If the case must go on, Chavez wants the city, and therefore taxpayers, to handle the costs.
He said the plaintiffs believe he used skills and knowledge gained from experience as a city police officer and an APD gun to kill Tera, so he would have been acting within the scope of his duties and employment.
But the city says that has already been settled.
Albuquerque agreed in 2011 to pay Tera's family $230,000, an amount Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy said in a statement "included any and all conduct by Mr. Chavez which was even arguably within the scope of his duties."
She also said, through his attorney, that Chavez signed off on the deal.
Hall said this is an example of why people shouldn't represent themselves. The civil wrongful death case is about Chavez's conduct outside of his duties as an APD officer, so his argument doesn't apply, Hall said in a statment.
The civil suit trial is set to start on Jan. 13.
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