Prosecution accuses former Rio Arriba Co. sheriff of threatening witnesses

Politics - Government

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A New Mexico sheriff facing criminal charges is gearing up for a second trial. Meanwhile, the prosecution is accusing him of threatening witnesses. “I’m not saying he had direct contact with them, but he’s violating the law and the spirit of conditions of release with contact through a third party,” said District Attorney Andrea Reeb.

“There is no evidence here that he contacted or even had a third party contact any of the witnesses, that this court directed him not to do,” said the defense, Jason Bowles.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan is accused of trying to help a former Española city councilor evade police after a high-speed chase in 2017. His first trial ended in a hung jury earlier this month. Monday, Reeb said she plans to try the case again.

Reeb also claimed Lujan ordered his deputies to threaten perjury charges against two of the witnesses in the case. Reeb called it a violation of the sheriff’s court-ordered conditions and asked the judge to lock him up or make him wear an ankle monitor.

However, Judge Kathleen McGarry Ellenwood denied that request. She did add a specific condition ordering Lujan not to be involved in any investigations related to his case and warned him to stay in line. “If another incident comes to mind, I will consider additional conditions such as an ankle monitor or custody, but at this point, I don’t think we’re there yet,” McGarry Ellenwood said.

The state asked to move the trial out of Rio Arriba County. A hearing on that is set for next month.

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