ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two Metropolitan Detention Center corrections officers charged with the death of an inmate are asking the state to drop the charges with their lawyer arguing there’s not enough evidence.
MDC corrections officers Keith Brandon and Jonathan Sandoval are charged with involuntary manslaughter after the death of inmate Vicente Villela in 2019. Now, their attorneys filed a motion to have the charges dismissed.
It all started when officers were trying to move Villela from his cell.
According to court documents, Villela was resisting. Corrections officers, including Sandoval, took Villela to the ground to try to control him.
According to a previous wrongful death lawsuit, there were at least 11 officers trying to subdue Villela. Court documents say Brandon told Sandoval to sit on Villela. Video shows Sandoval kneeling on Villela’s back and holding down his head while Villela tells officers he cannot breathe.
Sandoval and Brandon’s attorneys are now saying the charges should be dropped.
They argue there is no evidence that these two officers specifically caused Villela’s death, noting a pretrial interview with the state’s forensic pathologist who said the death cannot be attributed to any single officer or individual.
The attorneys also note the amount of meth in Villela’s system at the time of his death that they say could have contributed to his behavior and respiratory problems.
There will be a hearing for this motion later this month.
After Villela’s death…the two officers were placed on leave. News 13 reached out to see if they are still working at MDC but have not heard back.
Last year, the defense filed for the case to be dropped due to wording in the grand indictment, but the judge denied it. There was also a civil suit in which more than $5 million was awarded to Villela’s family.