Burglary defendants take pleas

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When Taos Police made two arrests and recovered more than a dozen firearms matching a list of weapons stolen from a Taos gun store last spring, officers thought they had given the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office the type of case prosecutors dream about.

This year, however, the two defendants tied to the burglary, Brandon Ackaret and Andrea Lukes, both accepted plea agreements in Taos District Court, which either dismiss or conditionally discharge nearly all of the half-dozen charges filed in each case.

It was just after midnight May 13 last year, when Taos Police Officer Luke Martinez stopped Lukes and Ackaret in a brown sedan with stolen plates. Lukes sat behind the wheel and Ackaret was in the passenger seat. Martinez wrote in a police report that he recognized Ackaret from surveillance footage that captured a burglary at SMD Zombie Tactical little more than 24 hours earlier. Numerous firearms had been stolen during the burglary. Police had a list of each weapon, including serial numbers.

Asked to identify herself, Lukes initially provided the officer with a false name and then fled, leading Martinez on a brief chase that ended when Lukes lost traction on the roadway.

Supporting officers arrived and arrested Lukes and Ackaret. Stuffed inside bags inside the car, officers found numerous weapons with serial numbers that matched the list provided by Zombie Tactical.

Then-interim Taos Police Chief David Maggio commended his officers for their diligence following the arrests. He filed charges that week with the hope that prosecutors would seek convictions in what appeared to be a cut-and-dried case.

It was also a time, however, when the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office was still short-staffed, perhaps one reason why Ackaret and Lukes’ cases were cleared through plea agreements this year.

By the end of last week, Ackaret, 29, had pleaded guilty to one count of non-residential burglary, a fourth-degree felony pending a conditional discharge by the state. His five other charges, including two counts of fourth-degree larceny, have been dismissed.

To clear the burglary charge, Ackaret will serve 18 months of supervised probation. During that time, he’ll be required to pay restitution and will undergo regular drug screenings, but he’ll spend no time in prison.

His accomplice, Lukes, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving stolen property, also a fourth-degree felony charge. For her, the state swapped an 18-month prison sentence for an 18-month period of supervised probation.

Taos Police Chief David Trujillo, who was still a sergeant when his fellow officers arrested Lukes and Ackaret and recovered the weapons last year, declined to comment on the outcomes of the cases.

Several other high-profile criminal cases have been resolved through plea agreements since last year, including Andrew Bernard Mott, who was accused of shooting a handgun at a state police officer and his family near Costilla last year; Raymond Martinez, who was accused of raping and molesting children in 2015; and Juan David Gonzalez, who was accused of shooting at state police officers during a car chase in 2016.

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Robert Andreoli

Is it any wonder that we have such a high crime rate ? As long as the courts continue to practice catch and release nothing will change.

Robert Andreoli, Arroyo Seco

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