Following a months-long investigation into two men’s alleged felonious behavior, the Española Police Department interim chief on May 14 served two search warrants on behalf of the special prosecutor in the obstruction case against Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan.
Each warrant was for one of the Sheriff’s cell phones, one personal, one County-issued.
The warrants, signed by Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados, were granted through interim police chief Roger Jimenez’s description of two separate incidents in which Lujan tried to interfere with Española Police officers during a standoff.
Lujan could not be reached for comment. Española Police have his cell phones and the Sheriff’s Office landline number goes through an automated answer with no option for voice mail.
The first time Lujan tried to interfere was at Philip Chacon’s house at 7:30 p.m., March 21. Española Police tried to serve an arrest warrant on Chacon for the stabbing of Jacob Smith, one of Chacon’s tenants.
They attempted to get Chacon to come out of his house and Lujan arrived on scene to help Chacon. During the confrontation with several officers, including the Jimenez, Lujan was texting with Chacon, the warrant states. Lujan showed texts to the interim chief, which were meant to make it seem like Chacon was not home but in Santa Fe.
Police finally got Chacon to come out of the house and he was arrested.
During the investigation into Chacon, Española Police Det. Ernest Saucedo discovered texts and calls on Chacon’s cell phone, which led him to open an investigation into City Councilor John Ramon Vigil. Through that investigation, Saucedo and Det. Zack Wright obtained a search warrant for Vigil’s cell phone.
When Saucedo and Wright went to Vigil’s home to serve the warrant for Vigil’s phone, again Lujan arrived to intervene, this time with Undersheriff Martin Trujillo, the warrant states.
While discussing the warrant, Vigil called his lawyer and Lujan talked to Vigil’s lawyer on Vigil’s phone. Lujan then called Vigil’s lawyer on one of his own cell phones.
The two detectives got Vigil’s cell phone without further incident and left.
Because Lujan had come to two different “active scenes” Española Police were investigating, the need to examine the Sheriff’s two phones became apparent, the warrant states.
“Sheriff Lujan continues to show a pattern of arriving on active scenes in which Española Police personnel are investing crimes and interfering,” the warrant states.
Lujan was not helpful May 14 when Saucedo served the warrant at the Sheriff’s Office. In Zack Wright’s lapel video of the incident, Lujan first gives the phones to Trujillo then later denies having the phones.
The sheriff immediately wants to call “Nate” (Thompkins), his attorney. He takes the warrants and questions the legality of a warrant from a municipal judge and then that Saucedo got a warrant for a misdemeanor.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb is the prosecutor on the case. She said she got Casados to sign the warrant because every time a District Court judge has been assigned, Thompkins has excused him or her.
“I’m waiting for a District Court judge to be assigned, maybe by the state Supreme Court,” Reeb said. “Maybe we can stipulate to a judge?”
On the video, while waiting for a call back, Lujan looks out the window and asks Saucedo who is outside. Saucedo said he has all his units with him.
“You have all your units here?” Lujan asks. “What did you, you saying I’m gonna do something?”
“We don’t know,” Saucedo responds.
Lujan becomes angry and Trujillo ushers him into the back offices.
Left in his wake are Saucedo and Wright with Trujillo and a deputy with about five minutes of uncomfortable, awkward silence.
Lujan returns, while speaking on a cell phone and says to Trujillo, “That’s one opinion. It’s an unlawful warrant.”
Fifteen minutes into the recording, Jimenez arrives. He talks to Trujillo asking why the Sheriff is fighting a court order.
Trujillo said something inaudible about Jimenez making a show out of it.
“I really don’t want to put anyone in cuffs but if I have to I will,” Jimenez responds. “He’s the one not complying. We don’t need to be having this conversation.”
Lujan returns to the lobby and asks Jimenez to speak outside.
“Are you going to comply, yes or no?” Jimenez asks Lujan.
Lujan smiles and tells Jimenez the search warrant says he can search him for phones.
When Jimenez asks Lujan, “You want us to lock down the Sheriff’s Office?” Lujan goes inside and Trujillo blocks the door.
“You can go through the court system,” Trujillo tells Jimenez.
“We are. We’re going to lock down this building until he gives me the phones,” Jimenez says. “That’s at the DA’s Office request.”
At that point Wright realizes Lujan is trying to leave through the rear door and runs around the back. Lujan gets out of his truck and goes inside and says Española Police cannot keep him from leaving.
Saucedo follows Lujan and gets into a confrontation with a transport deputy at the door, who tells him “Don’t touch.”
Wright returns to the front parking lot telling the two officers and Deputy Chief Jack Jones that Lujan won’t comply and they are locking down the building.
When Wright returns to the front door Lujan has had a change of heart and tells Trujillo to give Jimenez the phones.
“This is retaliation for me telling the City Council you shouldn’t be police chief,” Lujan says.
Once Reeb gets a District Court judge, she said she will get new search warrants to look at the phones’ contents.
“These warrants have to be specific,” she said. “We can only search for information associated with the ‘standoff’ and the sheriff’s interference with (the city councilor).”
However, if they come across any other information that could be considered criminal, Reeb said she can secure further warrants to go through that information also.
Reeb said passwords are not needed to access cell phones.
“We have a Cell Bright machine and it dumps all the data from the phone onto a computer,” she said. “Then you can go through the information on the computer, but only what’s covered by the warrant.”
The case was dismissed May 4 in magistrate court to be refiled in District Court. No hearings had been set as of press time Tuesday.