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Ryan Laughlin @RyanLaughlinKOB
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We’re back in court today for the #TaosCompound case. Today the defense will making a motion to dismiss charges while the prosecutors will be appealing the decision to grant release. Live updates here.
Sheriff Hogrefe going over things with prosecutors. Defense attorneys are in courtroom. We had a 10am start time, still standing by.
Morton and the Wahhaj women enter the courtroom. All smiles before the hearing to dismiss their charges.
All rise. Here we go.
Judge says he’s gone over the rules over preliminary hearings. Rule 5-302. That’s what defense is challenging to get charges thrown out.
Judge outlines the law, that defendants are entitled to a preliminary hearing within 10 days, with some exceptions.
Prosecutors intend to call a witness with the ankle monitoring company later. Defense is now making argument to dismiss.
Defense says his client, Morton, hasn’t received a preliminary hearing and has been in custody since August 3rd. Says that’s against the law and charges should be dismissed.
Judge is asking if biggest hang up to release was finding a place to live. Defense is saying, yes, essentially.
Of note, Sheriff Hogrefe sitting with the prosecutors this time around.
Next defense attorney is up. She says she expected the state to do something, but they haven’t and violated the 10 day rule.
Last defense attorney is up. She notes her client Subhannah is pregnant and mother of four children in CYFD custody. Says the DA should have done something, anything within this 10 day rule and charges should be dismissed.
Judge is going over exceptional circumstances that would allow 10 day rule to be broken. Death of judge, severe illness, nothing that’s occurred here.
Prosecutor is up. They call their witness Mr. Vigil who will discuss custody issues, presumably.
He says no suspects have been given an ankle monitoring, he says because the address one was given was a local hotel and he felt that wasn’t adequate given terms of release.
He also says the suspects shouldn’t discuss the case amongst each other and didn’t feel they should be at the same hotel together.
Defense is cross examining Vigil, he’s hammering him on the point that it wasn’t his place to keep the suspects apart. There was not a ‘no contact order’ and it wasn’t his job to make sure they didn’t discuss the case.
Vigil is excused. Prosecutors will make final argument.
Prosecutors going over case law that shows how dismissal is not the right action if they haven’t shown prejudice against the defendants for violating 10 day rule.
Prosecutors saying there was exceptional circumstances. The state expected to defendants to NOT be in custody at this time. If defendants are not in custody there is a 60 day time limit for preliminary hearing.
Judge going over rules and procedures step by step. Not looking good for prosecutors. Prosecutor says they didn’t know if they should be on a 10 or 60 day timeframe.
Defense is up, he’s saying the state had plenty of time to meet the requirements in different ways since Aug. 3rd and they broke the rules.
Defense is done. Judge is up.
He says the rule is clear. If a preliminary hearing is not met within in the 10 days the charges are dismissed.
He says there are ways to file an extension, but that was not done.
Judge says his decision is tough considering the threats to Judge Backus and the public outcry, but his job is to apply the law.
Judge takes recess to contemplate decision. He’s hoping to be back in 10. Defendants leave the room.
We’re back about to hear judge’s decision.
#Breaking: Judge dismisses all charges against Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj. Three of five suspects in #TaosCompound case.
He says this order for dismissal will be filed at 2pm after 1pm appeal of no-bond decision. Judge notes that state can re-file charges based on new information at a later time, but he does not have much choice to dismiss charges today, citing violating the 10 day rule.
So, we’re done in court for now. Pending new developments in the 1pm appeal hearing, three of the five will be free from custody today.
Back in court, as I understand, motion will be heard to dismiss charges against Siraj Wahhaj and Jany Leveille. These two are charged with child abuse resulting in death of Abdul-Ghani (Wahhaj’s son) who was found buried on the #TaosCompound.
All rise. New judge and Siraj and Jany are in the courtroom.
Judge starts by saying he has vacated other three no-bond appeals because they have been dismissed. That was Morton and Wahhaj sisters.
Woa. Judge Backus has recused herself which is why Judge McElroy will be hearing these motions.
I don’t know, but, Judge Backus’ recusal is probably not because of death threats and more likely because she was the judge who ruled on denying the no-bond motion in the first place. Just speculating.
Defense for Siraj is up and making the same arguments. Siraj does have an extradition warrant from Georgia. His defense is saying that doesn’t matter, he’s still entitled to preliminary hearing in 10 days.
Interesting caveat, the more severe charges were brought against Siraj and Jany were more recent. Meaning, the 10 day limit would be ending in September. Defense says that shouldn’t matter.
Another twist, judge says Jany was in ICE custody, he asks if that would be considered conditions of release. Defense says no. That’s still in government custody.
Not calling Mr. Vigil this go around because judge says that doesn’t explain why DA office didn’t have a preliminary hearing.
Again, prosecutors didn’t know if they’d be on, “a 10 day track, or a 60 day track.” Reminder, if suspects are not in custody prosecutors have 60 days for preliminary hearing. State thought suspects were getting out. They couldn’t meet terms of release and have been in custody.
Prosecutor says it wasn’t the state of New Mexico holding these two. Siraj’s GA warrant and ICE was holding Jany kept them in custody. Question here is when did the 10-day clock start ticking? That’s what state and defense are arguing now.
Judge is up. He says these two cases are different, however it doesnt change the 10 day rule for a preliminary hearing.
Judge is “upholding law of the state,” says DA office failed.
#Breaking judge dismisses charges against Siraj Wahhaj and Jany Leveille. All 5 of the #TaosCompound suspects are free.
Judge McElroy is hammering the DA office. He says he doesn’t know if the office is overworked or what, but he finds it disturbing the state didn’t play by the rules. Notes the DA is not present here.
Motion to look at no-bond hearing is getting throw out because charges have been dropped.
Hold on. New charges NOT filed by the DA but directly filed by the Sheriff’s Office.
Wow. First appearance right now for new child abuse charges and conspiracy. Court received these a couple hours ago. Same charges, new dates.
Identical charges being brought to Jany and Siraj for child abuse resulting in child abuse. So... I think we’re right back where we started.
Defense said the fact the sheriff filed the charges is a procedural error and advised clients not to enter a plea on new charges.
State filed at 1:41pm (during this hearing) a no-bond motion for Jany and Siraj. Meaning hearing within 5 days on conditions of release.
Defense says it appears the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, the Taos County Sheriff’s doesn’t know what the District Attorney is doing and vice versa.
Wow. Now the judge says a voter approved law back in 1924 says the criminal complaint filed by the sheriff isn’t allowed and “of some concern.” Judge is asking attorneys to make arguments for remedy for procedural misstep.
Judge says he raises the issue because he wants these cases prosecuted lawfully. He says he’s very disappointed that the court is being caught in this very public complete failure.
Court is in recess scheduling of no-bond motion upcoming.
Next Tuesday will be the no-bond hearing and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 7th.
As it stands now, Siraj and Jany will remain locked up until at least Tuesday. Still no new charges have been filed against Morton and the Wahhaj sisters. They are free to go. Court is in recess, we’re live at 5, 6 and 6:30 on @KOB4.
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