District Attorney fed up with New Mexico’s criminal justice system

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The prosecutor in the most populous county in the state says he has had enough. He says the criminal justice system is giving teenage offenders too many breaks, without any rules, and he wants it fixed. District Attorney Raul Torrez says it is a dangerous situation, what he calls a revolving door of criminals in Albuquerque.

Torrez says 21-year-old Quontez Kuvinka was convicted following his involvement in a deadly crash and carjacking in 2017. The DA’s Office wanted him behind bars, but Kuvinka was placed in a young adult diversionary program. Then last year, Torrez says Kuvinka was caught on camera shooting off guns and talking about selling drugs. He was sent back to the same program even though the DA’s Office requested again he be sent to prison.

Thursday, he was arrested again for possessing drugs and a loaded gun. “I am not willing to engage in this Diversionary Program unless and until the Supreme Court steps in or the legislature provides guidance. We simply, there are no rules,” Torrez said.

Now, he’s asking the U.S. Attorney’s Office to take up Kuvinka’s case to move him into the federal system after losing faith in the state system. “Frankly, I do not have any confidence now, even after he has been convicted that he will be sentenced and dealt with appropriately,” said Torrez.

“The sentences we obtain in the federal system are substantially longer and the fed system serve a higher percentage of their sentence. We can’t supplant the state system by the fed system, but in the right cases, we can have a real impact in the community,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico John Anderson.

Torrez says the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been useful in other cases; Namely Jackie Vigil’s. The main suspect, Luis Talamantes Romero, is in federal custody on drug charges. “We are going to take advantage of the fact that he isn’t out unlike Mr. Kuvinka, he isn’t going anywhere. He isn’t an immediate threat so we are going to use that time to do all the investigative things we need to,” Torrez said.

Torrez says an announcement will be coming very soon regarding murder charged in Vigil’s case. As for Kuvinka’s case, Torrez says it’s an example of a flawed system. “I don’t think it is safe. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense,” Torrez said. He says he is sending a letter to the Supreme Court next week outlining his issues. In the meantime, his office has filed an emergency motion to revoke Kuvinka’s conditions of release and detain him pending sentencing.

KRQE News 13 asked District Attorney Raul Torrez about the newly leaked lapel video from Jessica Kelley’s arrest in 2016. Officers ask Kelley who was the man who fled the scene, she said she didn’t know his name but she said they called him something that was inaudible in the video. Torrez says that was a detail that was overlooked at the time as police focused on the false confession. He says while they have been aware of what was said in the video for years, they haven’t identified who Kelley was referring to.

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