The following is a selected overview of recent case activity in or related to the Taos County court system. All dates and times are subject to change.
Martin Rivera, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
Rivera is scheduled to appear in court this month to be tried on a series of violent felonies filed against him in April 2017.
That month, Rivera, who is now 22, was accused of stabbing a man in the gut while attempting to steal a vehicle from him in the parking lot of Smith’s grocery store in Taos. Later that week, Rivera allegedly robbed another man at gunpoint near Walmart. The next day, Rivera, accompanied by a 16-year-old girl, reportedly stole a Toyota Tundra from a man – also at gunpoint – in the parking lot of the Ranchos de Taos post office. They then fled south to Albuquerque.
The series of crimes touched off a statewide manhunt involving multiple law enforcement agencies. Sheriff’s deputies finally arrested Rivera and returned the juvenile to safety at an apartment in Albuquerque on April 12, 2017.
Rivera will be tried for one count of aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm, one count of child abuse and three counts of attempting to commit armed robbery.
The trial is tentatively scheduled for four days, ending Jan. 25. In preparation, the state and Rivera’s defense counsel have compiled lists of witnesses who are expected to testify.
Juan Rodelas, order quashing warrant – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
A warrant that went out for Rodelas’s arrest after he failed to appear for a docket call related to a hit-and-run case from 2017 was quashed last month.
Rodelas, 24, was charged with fleeing the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily harm, reckless driving and other charges after he allegedly struck and amputated the leg of a 74-year-old man who was walking near the Río Grande Gorge Bridge.
The warrant was quashed after Rodelas made contact with his attorney and assured him he would appear at future court hearings, according to court records. The order also noted that Rodelas had been complying with conditions of release imposed by the court. The defense and state prosecution also determined that a tentative date for a jury trial would have to be moved out due to “witness availability issues.”
A docket call is set for Jan. 28.
Gilbert Atencio, case dismissal – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
A prosecutor with the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Farmington dismissed a perjury charge filed against Atencio, a sergeant with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office, after a trial jury reached a deadlock in November.
The state found evidence that suggested the sergeant had lied at a Motor Vehicle Division hearing about having viewed lapel cam footage of an arrest of a former Taos Pueblo Tribal Police Officer in 2017.
The video was played at trial, showing that the man first refuses to take a breathalyzer test, but later agrees. Instead of taking the man to be tested, however, Atencio booked him at the Taos County Adult Detention Center and charged him with aggravated DWI.
While under oath at the MVD hearing later that year, Atencio said he had reviewed lapel cam footage of the traffic stop, but affirmed that the driver had never agreed to take the test.
State prosecutor Dustin O’Brien argued at trial that Atencio must have lied about having viewed the video given his erroneous account of what happened during the stop.
Five jurors found Atencio guilty of the perjury charge, while seven determined there was insufficient evidence to prove he had lied.
O’Brien had the option to seek a retrial, but dismissed the case without prejudice a month later.
For more on this case, refer to our past coverage .
Iesha Hartt, preliminary examination – Taos Magistrate Court, Courtroom A, Judge Ernest Ortega
A preliminary examination was scheduled for Thursday (Jan. 10) to determine whether the state has sufficient probable cause to maintain charges filed against Hartt, who was accused of causing a deadly car accident on State Road 68.
The hearing was delayed upon request by Assistant District Attorney Marcus Montoya of the 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office. Hartt's defense attorney, Alan Maestas, filed a motion requesting a speedy trial for his client.
The 25-year-old Ranchos de Taos woman was charged with causing a three-vehicle collision that killed her sister and injured eight other people, including three children who were riding in the back seat of the vehicle she drove. During interviews with police, she admitted to drinking alcohol before the crash and blew a 0.11 on a breathalyzer, above the 0.08 legal limit.
She was initially booked at the Taos County Adult Detention Center without bond, but was later released on her own recognizance with conditions imposed by the court.
Patrick Medina, order to show cause hearing – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
After the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office was disqualified from prosecuting a drug-trafficking case filed against Medina in 2018 due to “conflicts of interest,” Marco Serna of the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office was assigned to the case, but has not yet officially registered prosecution in Taos District Court.
Now, the defense has filed a motion to dismiss the charges filed against Medina, which include two counts of trafficking methamphetamine in early December.The motion cited the state’s failure to properly register Serna as the prosecutor in the case.
After spending months in jail after his arrest, and then attending an in-patient drug rehabilitation program in Carlsbad, Medina was released on his own recognizance in early January.
His defense counsel has cited delays in resolving the case – “without any progress” – as violations of his client’s Sixth Amendment right to “a speedy public trial.”
On Jan. 24, Serna has been ordered to appear before Judge McElroy to argue why the motion to dismiss the case should be rejected by the court.
For more on this case, refer to our past coverage .
– Compiled by John Miller