A Taos man with multiple felony convictions, a history as a fugitive and pending charges for allegedly battering his girlfriend, newborn baby and a healthcare worker at Holy Cross Hospital was recently granted release from prison, where he had been held pending the resolution of several cases filed against him in Taos County.
After Rafael Orozco and his brother, Cristian Orozco, allegedly assaulted and threatened to kill a jailer at the Taos County Adult Detention Center last fall, Taos District Court Judge Sarah Backus approved a preventive detention order that sentenced Rafael Orozco to just under a year in prison at Lea County Correctional Facility in September, to be followed by one year of parole. Preventive detention orders are used to keep defendants from committing further crimes and to ensure the safety of the public, concerns that have been raised more than once as Orozco's cases have been processed.
Orozco, who is now 24, served about nine months of the early sentence before his attorney, Ray Floersheim, filed a motion arguing for his release. Despite the state's efforts to block the motion, Backus ruled in its favor June 19 and set Orozco's bond at $10,000.
In the motion, Floersheim, who works for the Alan Maestas Law Office in Taos, primarily cited Rule 5-401, which defines rules surrounding the release of defendants before trial in New Mexico.
The rule underwent a revision in 2016 when voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that further defined the criteria litigators would have to produce to prove a defendant should be held until trial. In New Mexico, a defendant must be clearly shown to be a flight risk or a danger to the community, and cannot be held due to their financial inability to post a secured bond.
To some, the revision has proven favorable for defendants, while others argued that the revision merely provided a clarification to existing an existing law already in practice throughout the state.
In its response, 8th Judicial District Attorney Tim Hasson cited Orozco's history of failing to appear and a list of cases filed against him over the past several years.
Hasson noted that last July, Orozco violated his conditions of release and failed to appear in court for a hearing. A month later, Orozco again failed to appear for a court hearing after his bond had been set at $10,000 cash. Orozco was later arrested on a warrant.
The defendant's history of failing to cooperate with the courts goes back further.
While facing two other cases in 2013 - for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a civilian and battery against a New Mexico State Police Officer in Taos - Orozco again violated his conditions of release and fled to Richfield City, Utah, where he was later arrested on another warrant.
By the end of 2015, Orozco had pleaded guilty to one count in each case but was soon released back into the community.
On Sept. 21, 2016, Holy Cross initiated a lockdown when Orozco allegedly punched his girlfriend as she breastfed his newborn child in front of a male doctor. Orozco then allegedly grabbed the mother by the throat and slapped the baby, which had been born only hours earlier at the hospital.
Orozco fled capture after the incident, but he was arrested in Río Arriba County in December 2016.
About a month into his stay at the Taos County jail, he picked up other charges, for obtaining Suboxone, a prescribed opioid, in the jail and then pulling a fire alarm. Less than a year later, Orozco and his brother would be charged with assaulting a female jailer.
A global plea - one meant to resolve Orozco's multiple pending cases - was discussed by both parties last fall, but was put on hold after an outburst from the defendant in court. In another instance, Orozco refused to speak with his defense attorney about his case, according to court records. He was subsequently ordered a mental health evaluation to ensure he could understand the proceedings in his cases.
"The defendant currently faces serious felony charges in three pending cases, and has three prior felony convictions," Hasson wrote at the end of the response. "For all the aforementioned reasons, the defendant is a serious flight risk."
The defendant's history, however, did not change Backus' decision.
Ron Olsen, Deputy District Attorney at the Taos district attorney's office, called Backus' decision "unfortunate" in an email this week.
Orozco's next court date had not yet been scheduled as of press time Wednesday (July 11).
The amendment to Rule 5-401 was passed by voters in 2016 and went into effect in 2017. In 2015, New Mexico's Ad Hoc Pretrial Release Committee proposed the original idea of the amendment to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which passed the proposal to the state legislature, which then passed the proposal to voters.