The following is a selected overview of case activity in the Taos County court system. All dates and times are subject to change.
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 8th 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, though Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe has declined to comment on the case, citing it as an internal personnel matter.
Romero was indicted by a grand jury on April 7, 2017.
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
Martin Rivera, status hearing – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
A jury trial that had been scheduled for Feb. 5 and other schedulings in Rivera’s case were cancelled last month pending a grand jury indictment, according to the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The defendant had been granted a conditional release on a prior case from 2016 and allegedly committed a 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.
Rafael Orozco, initial assignment – Taos Magistrate Court, Courtroom A, Chief Judge Ernest Ortega
Orozco was charged last month with three counts of assault by a prisoner connected to an alleged assault and battery on a jailer at the Taos Count Adult Detention Center in September 2017.
During the incident, Orozco and his brother Cristian Orozco allegedly attacked a female jailer with broom handles as she attempted to lock down a pod Sept. 28. According to an incident report, the Orozcos struck the jailer at least twice during the assault and made threats. Both Orozcos were subdued and restrained. Following the event, Rafael Orozco was overheard telling his brother that he planned to fashion a shank to use on jailers.
For more on this story, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2yx4Fms.
Brandon Lopez, docket call – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Lopez appeared for a docket call last month.
A trial date for Lopez, who faces nine charges, including first-degree murder, had been set for Jan. 22, but was canceled, pending rescheduling.
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.
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.
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
A plea conference scheduled for Orozco was postponed last month when the defendant refused to come out of his cell at the Taos County Adult Detention Center, according to Ron Olsen, Deputy District Attorney with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The state had previously presented Orozco with a plea agreement, which was to be discussed during the conference last month. “He refused to meet or speak with his attorney,” Olsen said.
The agreement pertained to a 2016 case in which Orozco allegedly battered his wife, newborn baby and a health care worker at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos.
The court has responded to Orozco’s behavior by ordering the defendant a competency evaluation, which will assess Orozco’s ability to understand court activities pertaining to the case. The process could take up to six months to complete, Olsen said.
One potential consequence of the assessment could be a dismissal of the charges and a commitment of the defendant. Olsen said that there is always a concern that a defendant might simulate symptoms of a lack of mental competency to delay the processing of a case.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2rUmYzR.
Rafael Orozco, docket call – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
Orozco was scheduled for trial last 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 in January 2017.
The trial has been delayed.
For more information on this and other cases related to Orozco, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2gSjnda.
Martin Melendez, arraignment – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
Melendez was accused of child sex abuse in December 2017 and was arraigned this month in Taos District Court.
During the arraignment, the court approved a motion for a $10,000 unsecured appearance bond.
The case stems from a 2017 investigation conducted in cooperation between the Taos Child Youth and Families Department and the Taos County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies arrested Melendez on Dec. 13 and allegedly recovered child pornography and other evidence of the alleged abuse.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2CgJIub.
Corwynn Valencia, arraignment – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
Valencia was arraigned in district court on a slew of charges stemming from a Sept. 11 event, including aggravated assault upon a peace officer, criminal damage to property and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.
During the event, Valencia allegedly stole a flat-bed tow truck from a local towing company and led multiple law enforcement agencies on a 9-mile pursuit in and around Taos. Officers fired shots during the pursuit. One bullet wounded Valencia in the hand as he continued to attempt to flee officers and struck several police units, causing extensive damage.
A trial date has not yet been set.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2gSTFFF.
Juan David González, docket call – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
A plea deal in González’s case had been scheduled for a conference on Jan. 30 but was postponed due to a motion of continuance filed by the state and approved by the court.
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.
Ron Olsen, deputy district attorney with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said this week that the deal would allow González to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for a reduced sentence – roughly 13 years as opposed to a possible 20 years the defendant could face if convicted at trial.
As for the defendant’s delay in making a decision, Olsen said that state prosecutor John Lovelace was “giving a bit of latitude” given the length of the sentence proposed in the agreement.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2jpZrmt.
Juan Espinoza, preliminary examination – Taos Magistrate Court, Courtroom B, Chief Judge Ernest Ortega
Espinoza, a 21-year-old Bakersfield, California, resident charged with multiple counts of homicide by vehicle connected to a Sept. 30 car crash that killed two people and critically injured one other, is set to appear for a preliminary examination this month.
Previously, the defendant was released from the Taos County Adult Detention Center after he posted $2,000 for a $20,000 cash surety bond.
Meanwhile, the defense counsel and state prosecutors are gathering evidence and subpoenaing witnesses for interviews in preparation for trial. However, one looming lack of key evidence – an accurate blood-alcohol reading from the defendant, who allegedly admitted to drinking around the time of the crash – remains a challenge for the prosecution.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2xLcZeA.
Travis Walker, arraignment – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
Walker is set to be arraigned in Taos District Court this month on kidnapping, aggravated battery, assault and other charges connected to a December 2017 incident in which Walker allegedly took his former boss captive in the Ranchos de Taos area.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2o4FqUl.
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 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, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2nNw6U4.
Cliff Peckham, preliminary examination – Taos Magistrate Court, Courtroom A, Judge Jeff Shannon
Peckham will appear in magistrate court this month for a preliminary examination related to a Jan. 13 event in Tres Piedras, where Peckham allegedly shot at and wounded another man during a dispute over money and construction materials.
For more information on this case, read our past coverage online at bit.ly/2E09sQ9.
– Compiled by John Miller