Opinion: DA: Stop letting felons off the hook

By Anthony Ayala, Taos
Posted 5/16/19

I am writing in regard to the plea given to Martin Rivera by the district attorney that didn't require an initial period of incarceration for Rivera at the New Mexico Corrections Department because …

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Opinion: DA: Stop letting felons off the hook

Posted

I am writing in regard to the plea given to Martin Rivera by the district attorney that didn't require an initial period of incarceration for Rivera at the New Mexico Corrections Department because he had a methamphetamine drug problem at the time his crimes were committed. Most certainly I will be the first to say that a substance-abuse problem warrants treatment rather than incarceration; I am a recovered alcoholic, and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings weekly and as part of my recovery do 12-step work with other alcoholics. Recovery is a spiritual way of life. I am personally aware that a person's judgment is impaired under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Clearly, I am all for someone receiving inpatient treatment at an alcohol or drug treatment center; but Rivera has shown repeatedly that he only sought treatment to avoid prison. Our DA had the power to send Martin Rivera to prison to receive the treatment that he needs and at the same time to remove Rivera from our community pursuant to Habitual Offender Statute §31-18-17 NMSA 1978, since Rivera had a prior felony conviction.

I am a criminal defense attorney and I have defended over 2,500 felony cases. It is my professional opinion that prison is what criminals like Rivera deserve and the only thing they understand because, notwithstanding the evil things said about prison, it has a controlled environment where an inmate, if he so desires, can get treatment for an alcohol or drug problem, obtain an education and learn skills that would help him/her become a productive citizen. More importantly, it removes a dangerous individual like Rivera from our community.

On the very day Rivera was given a probated sentence, Rivera was taken back to jail where he picked up another felony case by (allegedly) joining inmate Rafael Orozco in punching and kicking Christopher Wayne Davis in the head over 40 times. That is what gang members do; they are all cowards, and they carry firearms or other weapons. Now the DA has another felony for a four-year habitual to each count that Rivera now faces. Our DA can put Rivera in prison for at least eight years.

The reason that Rivera was in jail in the first place is because he tried to rob a man of his vehicle and when the man refused, Rivera stabbed him in the abdomen; he then tried the same thing on a couple near Smith's but they pushed him off. Also in separate cases, he was accused of robbing a teenager at gunpoint near Walmart, stealing a truck in another case from a man at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Ranchos de Taos post office, then involving officers on a high-speed chase, and he still faces other charges.

What is a necessity is this: 1. Put Taos County Sheriff's dispatch number (575) 758-3361 on your speed dial and call if you ever see anything suspicious; 2. stand up and be a witness to what you see; and 3. if you become a victim let the district attorney's office know that you refuse to allow criminals like Rivera who have priors off the hook. If the DA needs to work a little harder by taking cases like Rivera's to trial to secure a conviction they must do so; if the community is willing to put themselves through jury trials as witnesses against criminals like Rivera, undergo the grief, fear and uneasy feelings they have to endure when they have to testify as victims about their horrible experiences, [then they must have] the courage to relive the degrading experiences at the hands of the Martin Riveras of Taos.

Demand that the district attorney's office put in a little more effort into the prosecution of criminals who don't have any respect for us or our families. We are tired of people on drugs, bullies with weapons and gang members running our lives. District Attorney, use the habitual offender statute to put the criminals who are making our lives unpleasant in prison.

Anthony Ayala is an attorney in Taos.

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