The following is a selected overview of case activity in the Taos County court system. All dates and times are subject to change.
Rafael Orozco, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Orozco will be tried this month on charges that include bringing contraband into a jail, possession of a controlled substance, interference with bomb or fire control and criminal damage to property. The defendant picked up the alleged infractions while incarcerated at the Taos County Adult Detention Center.
For more information on this and other cases related to Orozco, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2gSjnda.
Martin Rivera, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
Rivera, a Ranchos de Taos man, will be tried on eight felony counts and one petty misdemeanor connected to a series of crimes he allegedly committed in the spring of 2017.
The defendant had been granted a conditional release on a prior case from 2016 and allegedly committed the string of crimes from April 6-11 last year with a juvenile accomplice, including a stabbing, multiple assaults and armed robberies in Taos County.
For more information on this story, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2pNJt7d.
Requildo Cárdenas, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Cárdenas is scheduled to go to trial later this year on charges that include aggravated assault upon a peace officer, fleeing and resisting, stemming from an Aug. 28 event at Fred Baca Park in Taos.
During the event, Taos Adult Probation and Parole officers and an officer from Taos Police Department attempted to arrest Cárdenas, who was wanted for absconding on parole and was parked in a vehicle at the park with one passenger, Elizabeth Maestas, 21. Police allege that Cárdenas attempted to flee in the vehicle and strike officers. The police officer on the scene responded by firing two shots, missing Cárdenas, but wounding Maestas, who later recovered from her injury.
Attorney John Lovelace of the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office has filed his intent to call numerous witnesses, including both law enforcement and civilian bystanders who were on the scene when the shooting took place.
For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2A5dp1c.
Ricky M. Romero, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Romero, a sergeant with the Taos County Sheriff's Office who ran for sheriff in 2014, will be tried on 21 counts of perjury and fraud for allegedly illegally billing a Medicaid program for taking care of a disabled relative while he was on duty.
The sheriff's office opened an internal investigation into the allegations, although Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe has declined to comment on the case, citing it as an internal personnel matter.
Romero was indicted on the charges by a grand jury on April 7.
The organization through which Romero allegedly filed time sheets that tabulated care allegedly provided, Options Home Care, Inc., has filed several protective order motions, which could squash the state's efforts to subpeona pertinent records.
For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2w0bOpP.
Arraignments, hearings, conferences
Raymond Martinez, plea conference – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
A proposed plea agreement in the case of Martinez, who was accused of raping and molesting children in 2015, was accepted in December.
As per the terms of the agreement, the defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser of three charges of the alleged abuse, and the other two charges were dropped. Martinez will serve five years supervised probation, minus 262 days of pre-sentence credit, and will be registered as a sex offender.
While several advocates spoke inside the courtroom in protest of the terms of the agreement - including the mother of the victims - Judge Jeff McElroy advised both parties to seek resolution and "healing" as the case has taken more than two years and has now been closed.
For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2z2acPv.
James Brown, arraignment - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Brown was arrested Oct. 3, 2017 on multiple charges of molesting a minor.
Following an investigation initiated by the Río Arriba County Sheriff's Office - which was later assumed by New Mexico State Police - Brown was charged with three counts of criminal sexual penetration in the first degree, kidnapping and assault with intent to commit a violent felony.
He will be arraigned on the charges in district court later this month.
For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2E3D2QZ.
Brandon Lopez, docket call - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
A trial date for Lopez, who faces nine charges, including first-degree murder, had been set for Jan. 22, but has since been canceled, pending rescheduling. The defendant is now set to appear for a docket call on Jan. 16.
On the basis that his law practice is closing, Cosme D. Ripol, Lopez's original defense attorney, has withdrawn from the case. Lopez has been assigned a new attorney, George Harrison, who is based in Las Cruces.
On Feb. 3, 2017, Lopez was accused of firing the bullet that killed 23-year-old Destiny Valdez at the bypass Shell gas station in Taos.
For more information, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2lOK1I1.
Rafael Orozco, plea conference - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Orozco, a man accused of battering his girlfriend and newborn baby at Holy Cross Hospital in 2016, is considering a plea agreement proposed by the state. State prosecutor Tim Hasson of the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office filed the request for the conference Dec. 14. The details of the proposed agreement will be discussed later this month.
During the alleged crime, Orozco allegedly struck his wife and newborn baby and assaulted a health care worker at the hospital, touching off a lockdown and a monthslong search for the suspect, who was arrested and charged in December 2016.
Following a clash with a jailer at the Taos County Adult Detention Center this year, Orozco was transferred to Lea County Correctional Center.
For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2x5dl34.
Juan David González, plea conference - Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
A plea deal offered by the state in González's case was proposed in November and will be discussed at a plea conference this month. "I expect a definitive answer from the defendant," state prosecutor John Lovelace.
On Dec. 5, 2016, González and two accomplices allegedly fled two New Mexico State Police officers attempting to serve a warrant for González's arrest in the Ranchos de Taos post office parking lot. González allegedly fired an assault rifle at the pursuing officers during an ensuing car chase.
González was charged with four felony counts and one misdemeanor.
For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2eWvPs2.
Cristian Orozco, status hearing - Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Orozco, brother of Rafael Orozco, faces charges that include kidnapping, burglary, battery and assault stemming from a Feb. 25, 2017 event. He is considering a plea deal proposed by the state. A status hearing regarding the case is scheduled for February.
During the alleged crime, Orozco reportedly forced entry into a home in Peñasco, where Ranchos de Taos teenager Angelica Valdez was staying with her grandparents. Orozco then allegedly brandished a handgun, assaulted the family and kidnapped Valdez. He fled south with the young woman to the Española area, where he was arrested the following morning on Feb. 26.
Orozco recently sent a letter to Judge Sarah Backus, who is presiding over the case. In his own words, Orozco said, "I am not my brother ... I never had a chance to grow up to be a adult."
For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2nNw6U4.