The Scofflaw and the Judge

By: Bill Whaley
1 July, 2016

“I was taken for a sucker.” Judge McElroy

District Court, June 23, 2016

On Thursday afternoon, June 23, 2016, a few minutes past 2:30 pm, Judge Jeff McElroy convened District Court to hear the “motion to revoke conditions of release” in the matter of State vs. Micola (Mick) Sopyn, case No. D-820-201400180. The Judge said he understood that there’s a “proposed resolution.”

Prosecutor Ron Olsen (the third in a succession of prosecutors) sat stage left and represented the DA’s office. Attorney Dan Marlowe, stage right, represented defendant Micola (Mick) Sopyn, the subject of the hearing. Sopyn was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Amber Hava and tampering with evidence in the same incident on July 11, 2014.

The defendant, Mr. Sopyn, had entered the courtroom in a wheel chair, pushed by a friend, prior to the Judge’s emergence from chambers. The bailiff greeted “Mick” as if an old friend. Now Mr. Sopyn sat with his attorney, Mr. Marlowe. The abandoned wheel chair sat behind the barrier.

Olsen filed the motion to revoke on May 25, 2016 and included an “affidavit of non-compliance report” from “Erminio’s Monitoring and Tracking Zystems,” produced by the managing partner, Ms. Amy Romero. According to the affidavit, Mr. Sopyn had notified the monitor “on April 27, 2016 that he would be moving out of his current home [an Albuquerque residence] and would be moving into another location and requested permission to make the move in the next three days. Our office granted the request.”

The affidavit continues, as of “May 12, 2016, Mr. Sopyn is still in the act process of moving to the new location, however our office has received Alerts that Mr. Sopyn has been located in various locations that were NOT AUTHORIZED (sic) by our office.”

In sum the affidavit states Mr. Sopyn was “located at Sandia Casino on several occasions, at convenient stores, hotel/school parking lots at various times, and on the GPS coordinates it appeared that Mr. Sopyn was located at a liquor store known as Quarters.” Ms. Romero notified Mr. Sopyn on May 12, 2016 that “he could NOT continue to move…due to non-compliance.”

As of May 21, 2016, “Mr. Sopyn has continued to be in NON COMPLIANCE (sic) in leaving his home without permission and being located at the Sandia Casino in the early morning hours,” stated the affidavit..

In addition to the GPS device ordered and assigned to Mr. Sopyn by the court, which monitors his whereabouts, Mr. Sopyn, is under “house arrest” and subject to a court-ordered “Soberlink alcohol device.” Sopyn is required to test himself for alcohol. But Romero says in the affidavit that Sopyn has “several missed tests.” The statement continues, “Mr. Sopyn never acknowledges the missed tests” and that “our office has also received 3 (three) POSITIVE ALCOHOL readings.”

During the course of the next 45-minute discussion with Marlowe, Olsen, and Amy Romero, Judge McElroy mentions that he had vacated the [third] trial date of April 12, 2016 for Sopyn because the defendant was on his “deathbed.” Now he’s “going to Casinos, running around” while he’s “too sick to go to trial.”

The Judge asked, “What’s going on?”

Background

Sopyn’s victim, Amber Hava, was pronounced dead July 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm. According to the Office of the Medical Investigator, a “shotgun wound caused Ms. Hava’s death.”

The probable cause statement by investigating officer Mauro Rosales of the Taos County Sheriff’s Department said, “Micola waived his rights and advised that Gary [Medina] and Amber were in his residence…trying to get money from him for crack.” Then “Amber approached Micola and hit Micola in the face and then reached for the shotgun…and the gun went off accidentally and Amber was shot.” The death was declared a homicide.

According to the police report, Mr. Sopyn, born April.11.1952, stands 5’ 10 “ and, at the time of the incident, weighed 205 pounds. By reputation Sopyn is a one-time prizewinning body builder.

Ms. Hava, born August 1, 1975, was 5’ 5” and weighed around 120 pounds.

According to the Medical Investigator’s report on Amber Hava, “No burned or unburned gunpowder particles are visible on the clothing over the entrance wound.” Further, the report states that the head, chest, and extremities were subject to “blunt” injuries: fifteen (15) in number, ranging in size from .16 of an inch to 5.12 of an inch.

In a Taos News story by Andrew Oxford, July 12, 2014, DDA Emilio Chavez, the first of three prosecutors in the case, alleged that there was “evidence of drugs and drug use at the residence.” Ms. Hava herself had an extensive history of efforts aimed at drug rehab. According to the public record, neither Mr. Sopyn nor Mr. Medina was tested for drugs or alcohol the night of the incident. Mr. Medina was spotted leaving the scene in his bloody clothes.

Deeper Background

Mr. Gary Medina, a witness to the killing, was considered Ms. Hava’s companion. According to his El Prado neighbors, Mr. Medina was engaged in the alleged “trade” for nigh on twenty years, primarily at his trailer unit. Mr. Medina’s son, Randy, about thirteen years old, allegedly shot himself with a rifle while several adults were at the trailer. No charges were filed.

The mother of Gary’s children, Yvette Jeantete, reportedly a high school sweetheart, has been in and out of jail, due to addiction. This reporter interviewed Ms. Yvette Jeantete around the time of the graveside memorial service for her son, Randy.

Medina’s brother is a retired Taos County Deputy Sheriff and his father, a former politico and onetime fixture at Herb’s Lounge in Arroyo Hondo

Back in District Court: June 23, 2016

Mr. Marlowe responded to the Judge’s questions re: a “proposed resolution,” saying that he and the DA had agreed to monitoring with a “GPS” device as well as a “Soberlink Scrambler” and two mandatory UAs (urinalysis test) a week, while “scramming” through Mr. [Erminio] Martinez’s service.

Marlowe also mentioned Sopyn’s medical condition, the alleged cause of a previous vacated trial date, saying the defendant’s surgery (due to a May 2015 motorcycle accident) had been put off to the end of July because Mr. Sopyn suffered from a tooth infection that might impair the operation.

(In his April 2016 Motion to vacate the trial, Marlowe argues that a May 1 [2015] motorcycle accident (while Sopyn was on conditions of release) “broke both collar bones, several ribs, his spleen, was removed and he shattered both hips and femurs.” In a captivating sentence Marlowe says of Sopyn that “He is either out of it because of the pain meds or his out of touch because of the pain without pain meds.”)

Judge McElroy abruptly called on Ms. Amy Romero. She said Sopyn tested positive for alcohol, then blames the device, or refuses to blow into it. He gets angry on the phone, she said.

“He had constant positives in April and May,” said McElroy.

Ms. Romero explained how the device keeps track of zones, including Mr. Sopyn’s home, the doctor and dentist, the Sandia Casino, the liquor store, and school parking lot, which he visits. “I know every time he’s leaving,” said the forthright Ms. Romero. She said the “scram” bracelet sends a signal every 30 minutes. I get “readings constantly.” Ms. Romero repeated that Sopyn was argumentative and full of anxiety about the scram bracelet.

Summary of Sopyn Court Actions

Immediately after arrest on July 11, 2014, Magistrate Judge Jeff Shannon set jail-bound Mr. Sopyn’s bond at $40,000 cash. Sopyn was arraigned in front of Magistrate Judge Ernie Ortega on July 15, 2016 and bond was set at “$900,000” cash. Ortega referred to Sopyn as a “flight risk” and “danger to the community.”

Defense attorney Marlowe apparently excused Judge Ortega and Sopyn was then arraigned on July 25, 2014 in Magistrate Judge Shannon’s court. DDA Emilio Chavez, and Marlowe agreed on a $200,000 property bond and conditions of release: no contact with witnesses, no firearms, no alcohol, no law-breaking, no drugs, no driving without a license, confined to residence between 10 pm and 6 am; submission to random UAs and GPS monitoring. Sopyn was required to report to his attorney and to undergo the third-party monitor. Shannon signed off.

Sopyn’s property and modular home on Dona Ana Lane were appraised by a local realtor: property estimated at $147,500 and the modular home at $117, 500. The modular has since disappeared from the property.

A grand jury on September 11, 2014 indicted Sopyn for Second Degree Murder and Tampering with evidence. Sopyn was remanded to the custody of District Court Judge Jeff McElroy. A first trial date was set for March 9, 2015.

On Oct. 6, 2014, prosecutor Estevan Sanchez, the second prosecutor, noted in an arraignment order that the defendant was required to wear a “GPS ankle bracelet with release for work while under house arrest. He was required to comply with a previous curfew, random drug testing, and alcohol testing.” Apparently Sopyn was allowed to travel freely back and forth from Albuquerque to Taos for work-related activities.

On Feb. 11, 2015, Judge McElroy, DDA Chavez, and defense attorney Marlowe agreed to allow Sopyn to move to Chama, NM while being monitored by Martinez tracking. But, according to the record, Sopyn remained in Albuquerque. The March 9 trial date was vacated.

A second trial date was set for October 26, 2015 but vacated due to Mr. Sopyn’s May 1 motorcycle accident of that year and re-scheduled for the third trial date of April 16, 2016. Though Mr. Sopyn remained on house arrest and was subject to court-ordered electronic monitoring, apparently, the device was removed after he suffered the May 1 2015 motorcycle accident. From May to January Mr. Sopyn appears to be “out of pocket.” On can infer that his general whereabouts were known but that his specific behavior seemed unmonitored.

According to court records, on November 19, 2015, Sopyn, was arrested for “aggravated DWI,” “Careless Driving,” and “Open Container.” The Albuquerque Police Department report says 19 open mini bottles of raspberry vodka were found in Sopyn’s vehicle. (Sopyn was still on conditions of release.) The police report says he possessed $37,000.00 in cash and weighed 160 pounds. He was released on $5500 bail.

Sopyn was scheduled for a jury trial on the DWI rap, April 7, 2016 but trial was postponed. He’s scheduled for trial in Albuquerque Metropolitan Court on July 20, 2016.

Back on Dec. 18, 2015 prosecutor Estevan Sanchez filed a “motion to revoke conditions of release,” asking for a bench warrant to arrest Sopyn, due to the DWI arrest and violations. Judge McElroy on January 4, 2016 quashed the arrest warrant and allowed Sopyn to remain free on house arrest, subject now to GPS tracking, and Soberlink device testing in order “to ensure that he is not using alcohol.”

Back in District Court: June 23, 2016

Mr. Sopyn, who expressed little emotion, appeared as a shrunken figure, the skin around his baldish head stretched tightly over the facial bone structure. Marlow said the judge was “generous” and mumbled about “another chance.” The attorney also said that his client in April was “bad off physically” and didn’t understand what was happening. Marlowe said he thought Sopyn understood now.

Asked by the judge why the prosecutor was recommending the proposal (for another chance), Olsen mumbled about “balance” and the court’s rational interpretation of house arrest and “severe medical issues,” referring to prior discussions.

“No doubt,” Olsen said, “there were violations in April and May.” Olsen said the problem could be solved with Soberlink but that “I have no problem recommending jail.”

Asked by the judge if he disputed the facts presented by Ms. Romero, Marlowe said “not at all.”

“I think Sopyn’s playing with us,” said McElroy.

“I’m never quite sure if he understands it,” said Marlowe. “I don’t think he’s playing with us.”

“This is first degree murder,” said the indignant McElroy.

“Second degree,” Marlowe quickly corrected.

“How do we know he won’t be sick, not mentally ready in September,” asked the Judge?

Marlowe mumbled about “manipulation” and referred back to the trial vacated in April: “He fell apart. I couldn’t do it. Needed a continuance.”

McElroy, now righteously indignant said, “He was driving around casinos, parking lots, the same week as trial. I was taken for a sucker.”

The Judge Rules

After a brief discussion, Judge McElroy then abruptly said, “one more time. Ms. Romero, Amy, next time there’s no hearing. “ Speaking directly and loudly to Sopyn, the Judge said, “You’re under house arrest, you don’t leave your house. The Scram unit works or you go into custody. Deviate one block, you’re going into custody. If he leaves the house,” the Judge said, “Ms. Romero and Mr. Olsen ask for a bench warrant.“

Trial no. 4 is set, allegedly, for September 19 and is scheduled for five days. Meanwhile Mr. Sopyn is expected to appear in the Albuquerque Metropolitan Court on July 20.

Amber didn’t get anymore time or “one more chance” on the night of July 11, 2014. According to the report from the Office of the Medical Investigator, one might speculate that somebody beat her severely before the accused fired the shotgun blast that killed Amber Hava. The police report refers to a large pool of blood inside the residence. According to the police report, Mr. Sopyn and Mr. Medina moved the body and tried to put Amber in Sopyn’s truck, evidenced by open doors and blood on the vehicle. Callers contacted 911, sirens were heard, and several cops arrived at the crime scene.

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