LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) - When four Belen teens were arrested last week, accused of plotting and threatening to shoot classmates at Belen Middle School, 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez looked to see what he could charge the eighth graders with.
"We looked at a lot of different charges, and we only found a petty misdemeanor which relates directly to what the children did," Martinez said.
That charge was Interference with educational process.
Alejandro Ortega, Lawrence Chavez, Khaleb Lucero and Mateo Jaquez are also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a felony, which Martinez admits may be a bit of a stretch.
"We'll see how far we can go prosecuting this, but this creative charging mechanism should be not be left to the district attorney," Martinez said. "The law should be clear about what we do in this case."
It's that lack of a specific law on the books that 11th Judicial District Attorney Rick Tedrow of Farmington ran into when he's looked at similar cases in his part of the state.
"What we had come to the conclusion was there's no real charges that involve the threats that we see in schools nowadays," Tedrow said in a phone interview.
Both are now pushing for the state Legislature to pass a comprehensive school-violence law when it convenes in January. Tedrow's proposal would allow for any threats of school violence to be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the case.
"This is just our way of being proactive instead of retroactive when something actually does happen," Tedrow said.
On Tuesday District Court Judge Violet Otero released two of the four students charged from jail to await trial under GPS-monitored house arrest. They received the same treatment as their other co-defendants who were released at a hearing Monday.
Belen Consolidated School District Superintendent Ron Marquez told News 13 all four are suspended and the district is recommending the students be expelled. An independent hearing officer will make the final decision on that part of the case.
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