No Charges in Jemez Trustee's Groping Case

From the 2019 Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Elections series
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Nick Naranjo.jpg

Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board Secretary Nick Naranjo denied allegations that he grabbed a woman’s buttocks in August 2018. He said the accusation was politically motivated and related to Co-op matters.

A Santa Cruz woman reported Jemez Mountain Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees Secretary Nick Naranjo grabbed her buttocks, but no charges will be filed in the case, because the statute of limitations for any potential charges has expired.

Tracy Lopez told Española Police Department Det. Zack Wright she was at Saints and Sinners on Aug. 1, 2018 when Naranjo was also there.

“Lopez told me that she was standing by the register when Mr. Naranjo leaned in to her and said, ‘Don’t you want to take me home?’” Wright wrote.

She said after she declined, Naranjo grabbed her buttocks and squeezed, twice.

She told Wright another couple observed the groping, but she did not know who they were.

Wright interviewed Naranjo a few days later, with his brother, former Rio Arriba County magistrate judge and County commissioner Alex Naranjo present.

The interview was voluntary, Department Sgt. Jeremy Apodaca said.

Nick Naranjo Naranjo told Wright he might have seen Lopez at the bar, but that he never touched her for any reason.

Wright wrote that he asked Naranjo if it was possible he was too drunk to remember the incident, but Naranjo denied the possibility.

“Nick replied, ‘No, why would I pinch her butt in front of everybody,’” Wright wrote. “He was adamant that the incident did not occur.”

Lopez told Wright she had been afraid to report the alleged crime sooner because of Naranjo’s political power.

At the time of the alleged incident, Naranjo was the president of the Jemez Co-op Board.

Naranjo is the former chairman of the Democratic precinct in La Mesilla, a former city of Española lobbyist and nephew of late Emilio Naranjo, the long-time political boss who controlled the County government for decades.

Now, Lopez says her goal in reporting the alleged offense is not about trying to jail Naranjo, but instead about coming forward as a woman to say that sexual harassment or assault, no matter how mild, is unacceptable.

“There was a lot of reasons I didn’t (report) it for a year,” Lopez said Monday. “I sat on it because I’m from where I’m from, and I can imagine what I’m going to be told and I’ve been told ‘What am I doing going out to the bar by myself?’”

Lopez said she is bracing for any backlash from the story. She said she was so shaken from the incident as a whole that she had to seek therapy to cope.

“Ultimately I decided that part of my healing was that I needed to be heard,” Lopez wrote in a Monday email. “I needed to use my voice and hold him accountable.”

She wrote that it was Naranjo that should be ashamed of the situation, not her.

“He’s the one that should be carrying the burden of shame and he obviously needed to be told that touching people without consent is illegal,” Lopez wrote. “His intention was to shut me up and take my power away, and he did, for 10 months.”

Naranjo told Wright that Lopez was part of a group of people “out to smear his name.”

“Nick (Naranjo) said he tries not to associate with her and that he got the impression that she has mental problems,” Wright wrote. “He continued to say that he would never ask to give her a ride home or proposition her because he knows how she is.”

Wright wrote that after interviewing both parties, he could not determine if the crime ever occurred.

“Naranjo did not deny the possibility of him being at Saints and Sinners but denied ever propositioning (Lopez) for sex or grabbing her butt,” Wright wrote. “(Lopez) denies filing this report out of spite.”

Naranjo said Monday that he never touched Lopez, and that the allegations were completely unfounded.

“It never happened,” Naranjo said. “I’ve never done that, I’m very respectful of women.”

(1) comment

Maria Quinteras de Meras

Too bad she waited too long to go to the police. You know that this isn't the only woman that has been touched by this man or his brother. He and his brother think they're above the law, why do you think Nick took his big brother Alex and not an attorney...LOL. They were going to try and intimidate the officer, maybe they did. Hopefully other women start coming forward about Nick and Alex, surely this woman isn't the only one.

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