Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan sentenced to 3 years in prison

Crime

ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) –  A New Mexico sheriff will serve three years in prison for helping his friend evade police. Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan was sentenced on Thursday morning after being convicted of aiding a felon and intimidating a witness.

“The people of Rio Arriba County elected you to be sheriff. They put their trust in you to uphold the law and you let them down,” said First District Court Judge Kathleen Ellenwood.


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Lujan helped his friend and former city councilor Phil Chacon hideout in 2017 after being involved in a chase with police. Investigators say Lujan also told his own deputies not to tell anyone about it and he could face even more charges.

“As I was investigating that I started getting lots of calls from other people about concerns they had that Sheriff Lujan had done other things,” said 9th Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb.

In March of last year, Lujan showed up drunk at a crime scene, again involving Phil Chacon, and refused to leave. Lujan is charged with resisting, evading or obstructing officers in those cases and is scheduled to go on trial next month.

District Attorney Andrea Reeb accused Lujan of abusing his authority, saying he loved the power of being the sheriff. Thursday morning Judge Kathleen McGarry Ellenwood ruled Lujan will spend two years behind bars for the intimidation charge and one year for harboring.

The District Attorney told KRQE News 13 that it was her understanding that Lujan resigned Wednesday a few hours after his conviction. Lujan’s Attorney Jason Bowles says he plans to appeal.

Meanwhile, this is the second Rio Arriba County sheriff to be sent to prison in recent years. Tommy Rodella was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for pulling a gun during an off-duty traffic stop in 2014. Last year, Rodella appealed his sentence after there was a change in federal firearms law but the judge denied his request. He has about three years left on his sentence.

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