The Docket - July 12


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.


July 23

Daniel Kesner, jury trial - Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy

Kesner, a Talpa man arrested on two warrants during a high-profile state police operation in February, is scheduled for trial later this month.

He was wanted on two warrants, one out of Taos District Court for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property, burglary and larceny, among other charges. Kesner was also arrested on a warrant out of Río Arriba County for aggravated DWI, resisting, evading or obstructing an officer and other charges.

He is set to appear for trial this month on the Taos County charges.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.

Travis Walker, jury trial - Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy

Walker is set to go to trial later this month on kidnapping, battery and other charges related to a December 2017 incident in which he allegedly kidnapped his former boss in the Ranchos de Taos area.

In preparation for trial, the defense and 8th Judicial District Attorney Tim Hasson have been filing requests to call witnesses. Hasson has also filed a motion for discovery, a civil procedure that allows each party to request evidence collected by the other party in a case.

The overlapping scheduling with Daniel Kesner's jury trial, also set for July 23, may result in the rescheduling of one or both cases.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.

July 30

Ricky M. Romero, jury trial - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus

Romero, a sergeant with the Taos County Sheriff's Office who ran for sheriff in 2014, will be tried on 21 counts of perjury and fraud for allegedly illegally billing a Medicaid program for taking care of a disabled relative while he was on duty.

The sheriff's office opened an internal investigation into the allegations, although Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe has declined to comment on the case, citing it as an internal personnel matter.

Romero was indicted by a grand jury on April 7, 2017.

The organization through which Romero allegedly filed time sheets that tabulated care provided, Options Home Care Inc., has filed several protective order motions, which could squash the state's efforts to subpoena pertinent records.

Romero's jury trial is scheduled for five days, through Aug. 3.

For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage here.

Other events

June 19

John Rael, jury trial rescheduling - Taos District Court, Judge Jeff McElroy, Courtroom B

Rael, a former volunteer coach with Questa School District charged in the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl in 2016, was scheduled for a retrial late last month, now rescheduled for Oct. 10.

The defendant first appeared for trial in April, but after less than a day of deliberating, a district court jury failed to reach a verdict in his case. Seven jurors found him guilty on charges, and five found him not guilty.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.

Rafael Orozco, release - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus

Orozco, a Taos man charged with battering his girlfriend, newborn baby and a healthcare worker at Holy Cross Hospital in 2016, was released from custody June 19 on a $10,000 bond as litigators work to resolve his case and several others still pending in the Taos County court system.

For more on this case, read this week's story and refer to our past coverage here.

June 26

Requildo Cardenas, motion to compel disclosure - Taos District Court, Judge Jeff McElroy, Courtroom B

The 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office argued against a motion submitted by Cardenas' defense attorney to review Taos Police Department policies and video related to an officer-involved shooting last year at Fred Baca Park.

During the incident Aug. 28, 2017, Taos police officer Luke Martinez assisted Taos probation and parole officers in serving a warrant on Cardenas, who was in a vehicle at the park with a female passenger. When Cardenas allegedly attempted to flee and strike the officers, Martinez fired at the vehicle, missing Cardenas, but striking the female passenger, who underwent surgery and recovered from her wound. Cardenas surrendered and was taken into custody at the scene.

In last month's request, defense attorney Daniel Gower of the Alan Maestas Law Office wrote in the request that Taos Police had "private video" that had not been disclosed to the defense as well as policies pertaining to officer use of approved ammunition and firearms.

The district attorney's office disagreed, stating that the video from Martinez's lapel cam had been provided to the defense. The office also denied the request to review the department's internal policies. "State objects to this request based on relevancy grounds," senior prosecutor John Lovelace wrote, and went on to say that the type of ammo issued or used by officers was inconsequential to the charges Cardenas' faces, including four counts of aggravated assault upon a peace officer.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.

July 9

Cristian Orozco, jury trial rescheduling - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus

A jury trial previously scheduled for Orozco, an Española man accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl in Peñasco in 2017, has been rescheduled to August 7.

Orozco allegedly forced entry into a home in Peñasco, where his victim was staying with her grandparents. Orozco allegedly brandished a handgun upon entry, assaulted the girl's family and kidnapped her at gunpoint. Orozco then fled south with the girl to the Española area, where he was arrested by police, and the victim was safely recovered the following morning Feb. 26.

This month's rescheduling marks the third delay since Orozco's case was filed in February 2017. The first delay was granted to allow the defendant additional time to consider accepting a plea deal proposed by the state. As of press time Wednesday (July 11), Orozco had not accepted the deal.

Delays in scheduling trials are not uncommon as attorneys prepare for trial or discuss potential plea agreements.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.

July 16

Damian Herrera, scheduling conference - Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy

A scheduling conference is set in a first-degree murder case filed against Damian Herrera, an Ojo Caliente Man accused of killing five people in a shooting spree that crisscrossed Taos and Río Arriba counties on June 15, 2017.

Herrera was arraigned in Taos District Court last month on one of the first-degree murder charges for the killing of 61-year-old Michael Kyte, a Tres Piedras man Herrara allegedly shot to death at the man's residence June 15 last year. Herrera also faces a vehicle theft charge for stealing Kyte's truck after the fatal shooting, according to court records.

During the arraignment, Herrera pleaded not guilty on both counts.

The other four first-degree murder charges, for Herrera's alleged killing of his mother, Maria "Brenda" Rosita Gallegos, 49; brother, Brendon Herrera, 20; stepfather, Max Trujillo Sr., 55; and Manuel Serrano, 59, are being processed in Tierra Amarilla District Court.

This month's conference is a standard court setting meant to allow the parties involved in a case to convene to decide on future court dates. Herrera has yet to be scheduled for a preliminary hearing in the Taos County case, a court setting that may be discussed at the conference later this month.

Herrera is being held on a no-bond hold at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.