The Docket

Posted 6/14/18

The following is a selected overview of case activity in or related to the Taos County court system. All dates and times are subject to change.

Trials

June 25

John Rael, jury trial – …

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The Docket

Posted

The following is a selected overview of case activity in or related to the Taos County court system. All dates and times are subject to change.

Trials

June 25

John Rael, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy

After a jury hung in April in a child rape case filed against Rael, a former volunteer coach with Questa School District, a retrial has been scheduled for later this month.

Rael was accused of raping a 14-year-old Questa girl on June 9, 2016, an allegation that defense attorney Alan Maestas worked to weaken over the course of the two-day trial last month.

After less than a day of deliberating, a 12-person jury was unable to reach a verdict on the case, with seven jurors finding Rael guilty of charges, and five finding him not guilty.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2t5wxtf.

June 28

Mauro Rosales, jury trial – Taos Magistrate Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff Shannon

Rosales, a Taos County sheriff’s deputy, faces two counts of battery for allegedly attacking his wife and another man at a residence on Blueberry Hill Road in Taos the night of Jan. 25.

During interviews with New Mexico State Police, Rosales claimed that he never touched his wife and had acted in self-defense during the altercation with the man.

After a complaint was filed in January, Rosales entered not guilty pleas on both counts.

For more information on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2C4IN3Z.

July 7

Cristian Orozco, jury trial – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus

Orozco is scheduled to go to trial in early July to face charges connected to the Feb. 25, 2017 armed kidnapping of a Ranchos de Taos teenager.

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.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2nNw6U4.

Other events

June 4

Marcos Valencia, arraignment – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus

Valencia, a Ranchos de Taos man, appeared June 4 for a district court arraignment on drug trafficking and other charges related to a February traffic stop.

While on patrol Feb. 10, a New Mexico State Police officer noticed a vehicle with a broken rear license plate light traveling on State Road 68 in Taos County. After pulling the vehicle over, Valencia, who rode as a passenger, and the driver, Julia Duran, both allegedly attempted to conceal their identities by providing false identification.

The officer eventually identified both Valencia and Duran as wanted individuals and placed them under arrest with support from other officers. During a search, the officers discovered weapons and narcotics inside the vehicle, adding drug charges to the case.

Valencia had been wanted for allegedly shooting at another individual and fleeing Taos County sheriff’s deputies in a vehicle. Deputies later found the vehicle abandoned and discovered methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, more than $3,000 in cash and a handgun.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2BBKPr7.

June 5

Jeremy Cozart, arraignment – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus

Cozart, a 42-year-old Tres Piedras man, appeared for a district court arraignment June 5 on charges related to a series of burglaries earlier this year in the town of Taos.

In February, Taos police charged Cozart with two counts of non-residential burglary, two counts of larceny and one count of criminal damage to property connected to the burglary of Taos Municipal Landfill in El Prado on Feb. 18.

At the time of the case filing, Cozart was also suspected in three other commercial burglaries which took place around the same period at Sagebrush Storage, Boot Doctors and Heads Up Music. Additional charges related to the other burglaries, however, have not yet been filed with the Taos County court system.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2t0s5Po.

June 13

Damian Herrera, arraignment – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy

Herrera, an Ojo Caliente man accused of shooting and killing three of his family members and two strangers west of Taos June 15, 2017, appeared for an arraignment on a first-degree murder and vehicle theft charge Wednesday (June 13) for the killing of Tres Piedras resident Michael Alan Kyte, 61.

Taos County sheriff’s deputies escorted Herrera into the courtroom Wednesday. The defendant sat beside Aleksandar Kostich, a Taos-based public defender who served as a stand-in for Todd Farkas of the New Mexico Public Defender’s capital crimes unit.

Judge Jeff McElroy ensured Herrera understood the charges and penalties he faces in the case, including a capital felony murder charge and one count of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle for allegedly stealing Kyte’s Chevrolet Silverado after the fatal shooting.

A Taos County grand jury indicted Herrera on the charges May 31. On Wednesday, Herrera entered pleas of not guilty on both counts.

According to an investigation, Herrera allegedly killed his mother, Maria “Brenda” Rosita Gallegos, 49, brother, Brendon Herrera, 20, and stepfather, Max Trujillo Sr., 55, at a family residence in La Madera the afternoon of June 15, 2017.

Herrera then traveled to Tres Piedras, where he shot and killed Kyte outside his home, stole his vehicle and made his way north, crossing briefly into Colorado before turning south again into New Mexico.

Traveling along State Road 84, Herrera stopped at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiú, where he allegedly shot a fifth victim, Michael Serrano, 59, a security officer at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Following the brief hearing on Wednesday, one of Herrera’s sisters, Candice Herrera, started to cry. As her family escorted her out of the courtroom, Kyte’s family and friends remained silent.

Four other first-degree murder charges related to the string of murders are being processed in Tierra Amarilla District Court. Herrera is being held at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe on a no-bond hold. For the Taos County case, McElroy set a separate cash-only bond at $10,000.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2sTetmz.

June 14

Gilbert Atencio, preliminary examination – Taos Magistrate Court, Courtroom B, Judge Felix Pena

Taos County Sheriff’s Sgt. Gilbert Atencio is scheduled to appear today (June 14) before Judge Felix Peña in Taos on a perjury charge related to a Sept. 2 traffic stop of a former Taos Pueblo tribal police officer.

This year, the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau charged Atencio for allegedly lying about the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

The investigation found that the sergeant had erroneously charged the tribal officer with refusing to take a breathalyzer test. Reviewing the sergeant’s lapel cam video, investigators learned that the tribal member had agreed to take the test.

Late last year, the charges against the former tribal officer were dropped.

For more on this case, refer to our past coverage online at bit.ly/2q6z0C6.

– Compiled by John Miller

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