First Judicial District Court Judge Jason Lidyard is letting Taos County Sheriff’s Deputy Lorenzo Sanchez carry a gun for work purposes while he awaits trial for an alleged domestic violence incident.
Sanchez is charged with aggravated assault against a household member with a deadly weapon, battery against a household member and negligent use of a deadly weapon. The crime allegedly occurred in January 2019 in Velarde.
Now-former Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Summer Mirabal wrote in a criminal complaint that she was dispatched to Sanchez’s home after a woman reported being involved in a domestic dispute with him.
She said when she arrived she heard gunshots and saw a Taos County Sheriff’s Office vehicle in the driveway.
While on the scene, Mirabal wrote that Sanchez called her and told her he would not talk to officers and that if he was going to get “hemmed up,” he might was well keep going.
Mirabal was not able to make face-to-face contact with Sanchez that night.
The victim was shaken and had been crying during the incident, which allegedly started with an argument wherein Sanchez made some sort of vague threat. By the time deputies arrived, the victim reported to dispatchers Sanchez was firing his gun from their porch.
During the preliminary hearing March 13 before Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court Judge Joseph Madrid, the victim said she was unsure who had fired a gun that night, but prosecutors argued that the victim had reconciled with Sanchez and was not a reliable witness.
Sanchez’s attorney Alan Maestas argued that the victim was suffering from a menstrual-related illness that affected her the night of the incident.
First Judicial District Attorney’s Office trial attorney Jane Handley is prosecuting the case.
Madrid found there was enough evidence presented at the hearing to bind the case over to district court.
Lidyard’s first involvement with the case came April 8, during Sanchez’s arraignment. Sanchez appeared in court, but Maestas, his attorney, was absent. Sanchez said Maestas was in a jury trial in Taos that day, but Lidyard elected to proceed with the arraignment and entered a not-guilty plea on Sanchez’s behalf, to preserve all of his constitutional rights.
During the arraignment, District Attorney’s Office senior trial attorney Anastasia Martin stood in for Handley.
After informing Sanchez of the charges against him, Lidyard turned his focus to the conditions of release.
Sanchez was previously following conditions of release set by Madrid which allowed him to have non-abusive contact with the victim, but prevented him from carrying a weapon.
Martin asked the court to impose the same restrictions on Sanchez moving forward.
Lidyard modified the conditions of release to allow Sanchez to carry a firearm and ammunition in the course of his work and clarified that Sanchez lives with the victim but is not allowed to have abusive contact with her.
“You may not possess weapons including firearms or ammunition except in this case I’m going to allow that for purposes of your employment,” Lidyard said. “You may have contact with this individual but it has to be non-abusive in nature. You cannot leave the state without permission of the court, you have to maintain weekly contact with your attorney and you have to appear at all those court hearings.”
Lidyard also told Sanchez to make sure his attorney was aware of the future court dates and would be in attendance.
Law enforcement families experience domestic violence at a higher rate than the general public, according to the National Center for Women and Policing.
“Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population,” a Police Family Violence Fact Sheet published by the Center said. “A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.”
The Center cites lack of oversight by departments, inconsistent policies and a tendency within the system to omit domestic violence allegations from performance reviews as contributing factors to the disparity.
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