Attorney accuses Bernalillo Co. Sheriff of intimidating, retaliating against deputy

A prominent New Mexico attorney is leveling a new accusation against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales. 

Attorney Sam Bregman claims the sheriff is intimidating and retaliating against one of his own deputies for a deposition the deputy gave in an ongoing civil case against BCSO. 

·READ: Bregman Letter to Attorney General »

Bregman is representing the family of Martin Jim in a wrongful death lawsuit against BCSO. Jim was killed during a November 2017 BCSO shooting that ended near Coors and Glen Rio. 

According to the sheriff’s office, Jim was a passenger in a stolen truck that wouldn’t stop for deputies. BCSO says Deputy Joshua Mora fired several shots into the truck, killing two people, including Jim. 

For months, Bregman and Sheriff Gonzales have publicly traded words about the case. 

“This is just shooting wildly into a truck,” Bregman of the shooting incident during a November news conference. 

“This is a politically charged thing by a defense attorney,” said Sheriff Gonzales of Bregman’s statements during a February news conference. 

As the months have passed, the wrongful death case has continued to progress behind the scenes with several depositions or witness interviews being conducted. 

Bregman now alleges that the sheriff has retaliated against a deputy for one of those depositions. 

“Sheriff Gonzales is acting like the boss of a mob,” said Bregman in an interview with KRQE News 13 Thursday. “It’s testify against him and you will pay a price, it’s unacceptable.” 

Bregman sent a letter to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office Thursday accusing Sheriff Gonzales of intimidating and retaliating against a witness in the Jim wrongful death case. 

“This kind of conduct is reprehensible, he should be removed from office, he should be prosecuted for intimidating a witness,” said Bregman. 

The accusation is based on the deposition of Leonard Armijo, a longtime Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy. Armijo, in part, trained Deputy Joshua Mora. 

According to the deposition, Armijo said his impression of Mora was that he was, “arrogant, overzealous, obnoxious and not in tune with training.” 

In the sworn testimony, Armijo also said he felt “intimidation” by Undersheriff Rudy Mora, the father of Joshua Mora, to pass Joshua through certain training elements. 

“So the sheriff heard all of this testimony, this sworn testimony and he didn’t like it coming from one of his deputies,” said Bregman. 

Bregman claims Sheriff Gonzales has since opened an internal affairs investigation against Armijo in response to the comments made in the deposition. 

KRQE News 13 asked the sheriff about the situation Thursday. The sheriff declined to go into specifics. 

“Obviously, we can’t talk when civil suits are out there, so basically I wouldn’t be able to comment anyway, but I will review the document and see what Sam has to say,” said Sheriff Gonzales. 

The sheriff followed up his brief comments Thursday with a written statement. The statement didn’t answer any questions, but vaguely confirmed the existence of the IA investigation against Deputy Armijo.

“Reference Sam Bergman’s letter to Attorney General’s Office.”

“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is handling this case like it handles all cases of alleged deputy misconduct. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies, regardless of rank, are accountable to everyone in our community. 

We, as a department, are obliged to ensure that our deputies operate within the confines of the law and according to procedure. The minute we detect any violation of not only the law, but of internal policies, we must investigate the incident and bring about swift and just correction, if required.  

Implementing an honest and fair fact-finding process that uncovers the truth is Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office goal in every internal affairs investigation. An honest and fair investigation is essential to protect the rights of all involved, including the accused deputy.”

–Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office – July 12, 2018.

The president of the union representing Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies, Chris Toledo, declined to give a specific comment on the situation Thursday. 

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office responded to the request for an investigation Thursday by saying it will look into the inquiry just like any other. 

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

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