Habitual shoplifter, trespasser keeps catching breaks


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s something we see far too often, a suspect getting arrested and then catching a break. The latest example is Clayton Eaton. He’s been arrested for everything from shoplifting to trespassing and assault. He goes to court, then to jail and then he’s right back on the streets.

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“Your Honor, Clayton Eaton, is that who you are calling,” asked a court officer. In what should have been a routine court appearance for 27-year-old Clayton Eaton, turned anything but. “He refused to come,” the officer said. “I know, I need to discuss that with the lawyers,” said the judge.

Eaton was supposed to face a judge for allegedly swinging a knife at an Albuquerque Del Taco employee after he asked for a cup of water. However, he wouldn’t leave his jail cell. He’s behind bars at Metropolitan Detention Center less than a month after he was jailed for a different crime.

In November, he was shoplifting and once again, pulled a knife on the manager at the AutoZone near Carlisle and Menaul. The complaint said the manager immediately recognized Eaton because he’s been known to steal from the store in the past. The complaint adds that police were also familiar with Eaton’s reputation for being a shoplifter and causing problems in the area.

Eaton was sentenced to more than two years behind bars but with a plea deal and good behavior, he was released after just a few months.

According to online court records, Eaton has a long history of crimes like trespassing, shoplifting and aggravated assault. The District Attorney’s Office files motions to keep him in jail, calling him a habitual offender but he keeps catching breaks. Documents show some of his other cases have been dismissed because witnesses or officers didn’t show up to court.

KRQE News 13 asked the Public Defender’s Office why people like Eaton seem to be in and out of jail. The following is their response:

When we see clients arrested multiple times on charges like trespassing or shoplifting, often food or other small items, we know that the courts and jail aren’t going to solve the problem. Often there are mental health issues, housing issues and/or drug addiction at play. This is a common scenario in Albuquerque that hasn’t been and can’t be solved by jail time. To deter these crimes, we have to address the underlying issues.

Julpa Dave, Albuquerque managing attorney for PDD

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina said last week that their officers make these arrests day in and day out but until other parts of the system are fixed, crime will not go down. As for Eaton’s most recent case, the state is also trying to keep him behind bars, filing a preventative detention motion.

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