Trial against Rio Arriba County sheriff to move to Santa Fe

Crime

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A trial of Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan will take place in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a judge granted prosecutors’ motion Monday to move out of Rio Arriba County.

State District Judge Bryan Biedscheid cited the need for a bigger space and the limited number of residents who could be potential jurors. Prosecutors had argued that jurors would be too intimidated by the sheriff.

The 60-year-old sheriff is awaiting trial on three misdemeanor counts of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer. He is accused of showing up drunk at the home of former Española City Councilor Phillip Chacon in March 2020. Police were executing a search warrant and Lujan allegedly tried to take over the operation from local officers and New Mexico State Police.

Prosecutors are also asking for a change of venue to re-try a separate case against Lujan which also involved Chacon. Lujan was facing charges of harboring or aiding a felon and bribing a witness in connection with a 2017 incident. He was accused of helping Chacon evade police after a high-speed chase and telling a sheriff’s deputy who witnessed some of his actions not to tell anyone.

Lujan’s attorney had argued that the sheriff had no knowledge of the charges against Chacon at the time. Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

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