Cell phone thief catches a break after case dismissed on a technicality

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque mom is outraged after charges were dismissed against a woman accused of stealing her daughter’s cell phone. That victim did a lot of leg work to recover that phone and make sure the woman was caught.

The District Attorney’s office says the judge wasn’t willing to work with the victim’s schedule, and what happened to her could happen to other victims.

Back in April, Jessica Baker and another mom found their daughter’s phones in an ecoATM machine at an Albuquerque Walmart after they were stolen from Sandia High School.

The machines give people quick cash for phones. She believes it’s enabling thieves. “I think at the end of the day, we’re really trying to get rid of these machines,” Baker says.

When they looked at the video recorded by the machine and reviewed the transactions, they linked 33-year-old Jessica Phebus to the crime. She was charged with larceny.

Last week, however, the case was dismissed because Baker and the officer weren’t able to appear. “It came the day after the Fourth of July. I had a family reunion that I had planned long in advance, spoke to the prosecution, then tried to get a continuance. It was denied and then, unfortunately, the case was dismissed,” Baker says.

The DA’s office says it worries this could start happening to more victims. With limited grand jury availability, victims have to appear at these preliminary hearings, otherwise, the cases are dismissed.

“You want to find justice, and when things are dismissed on technicalities or for procedural reasons, that’s not satisfying for anyone, and it’s not good for the community,” says Deputy District Attorney Rachel Eagle.

Baker says she’s done her part and is frustrated that she may not see justice. “There is a huge problem in our state and on top of it, this person who essentially got away with it made money on this, and once again our system has failed us,” Baker says.

Baker says she’s reached out to the City of Albuquerque, Wal-mart, and ecoATM about getting the machines removed, but so far nothing has been done. The DA’s office is working to revive the case and trying to figure out the best way to do that.

KRQE News 13 did reach out to the judge to ask why she denied the continuance. A metro court representative called responded saying the continuance was filed only three days before the hearing, making the motion untimely.

Another interesting twist to this story: according to court documents, Phebus was in the hiring process at the Sandia Pool when she allegedly stole the phones.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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