Taos Local Political News

By: Bill Whaley
11 March, 2018

We Taosenos can be grateful that Dan “Work-Gloves” Barrone, Fritz “The Hammer” Hahn, and Pascual Maestas, “El Econo Hombre” won the local election. Whether consciously or not, Taos and Questa escaped the Trump-like fate awaiting them by rejecting the moribund trustees at KCEC, where CEO Luis Reyes attempted to take-over Taos County’s largest town and village by running several candidates. But neither Taosneos nor Questions were biting. Since Barrone and Hahn have revealed their backsides, we know who we’re dealing with and it’s not all bad. At least the Mayor and his Hammer (aka “The Betrayer”) wear their own hair. The longer the hair the more “moral” bald spots it covers per our President.

Despite the re-election of the unchallenged and honorable Judge Chavez in Taos, a judicial “spectre is haunting” Taos County. The steady and judicious work of the Magistrate Court is up for grabs. Flavio tells me official support for a certain former magistrate judge and problematical bail bondsman, giving said creature inside access to jailed inmates, etc., sparked revolt against the status quo.

So Young Betty Martinez has emerged from retirement to challenge the even younger incumbent, Ernie Ortega, who has yet to qualify for retirement. For months now, the Martinez-Ortega duo has danced around voters, praying for support, and giving “political heartburn” to La Gente and La Familia. Local Internists at “Urgent Care” say they’ve noted an uptick in ghostly digestive complaints. Pharmacies have experienced a run on seltzer water, Alka-Seltzer, and tums. In a pinch, voters could live with either the incumbent or challenger as Magistrate.

But there’s worse news.

The even younger, if more qualified Magistrate, according to professional standards, Jeff Shannon, whose law degree and experience in the practice of law, along with one of the most Sympatico temperaments, makes him one of the best public officials, is being challenged by a Taos County 911 operative, one Dominic Martinez.

The operative, whose former work as town cop, TCSO, DA investigator, foster parent, and candidate for the schoolboard has been documented by this reporter in the mythic past at Horse Fly. Indeed, his daddy Lemo, a former colleague in the National Guard, once threatened me physically with his fists and myriad number of nephews, the last time I wrote something about Dominic, who can’t seem to hold a job.

Dominic came to my attention as a Town Cop when he busted a black kid and embarrassed the DA’s office, who filed charges against the aspiring Chihuly artist and juvenile from Seattle. Apparently, the erstwhile cop mistook “potting soil” for 66 grams of heroin. (One of the higher ups said the “boys” did not know how to analyze samples for drugs.) There has always been something “mean-spirited” and “hungry” about Dominic’s “keystone coppery.”

Here’s a letter from Shannon.

Bill, I am currently messaging all my Taos friends on FB to let them know I am running for reelection.  I do have an opponent, apparently–Dominic Martinez, formerly of TCSO and the DA’s Office, and currently working at 911 Dispatch.  However, since I am saying a lot more to you, you’re getting it via e-mail.  Just a few things to know:

1.  One of the first things I did when I became judge was to convince Ortega to reduce jury duty from 6 months to 3 months.  It went up to 4 months for a while due to staffing issues but is now back at 3.  Imagine jury duty from the 4th of July to Christmas.

2.  All convicted drunk drivers in my court are sentenced to additional community service picking up trash along our roads and highways, in addition the minimum penalties prescribed by law.  I began this with the 1st DUI conviction in my court nearly six years ago.

3.  I’m the only Taos Magistrate Judge to have ever conducted a same-sex wedding.

4.  I always answer my phone when Law Enforcement calls, no matter the time of day or night.  And I always go to the agency to sign arrest warrants and search warrants rather than have them come to me, even at 2 o’clock in the morning.  In some cases, especially DUIs, time is of the essence.

5.  I do background checks on everyone in custody BEFORE they are released by me.  Our current rules allow me to set certain conditions or secured bonds ONLY if I can justify them with facts such as past criminal history and history of failing to appear in court.  A review of the cases assigned to me will show that these background checks are in the case files.  For instance, this morning (Saturday) at the court house I reviewed the criminal histories of 7 individuals currently in detention, an exercise that took nearly two hours.

6.  Our current rules prevent me from setting secured bonds solely on account of the dangerousness of a Defendant.  I can only set secured bonds for flight risks.  Dangerousness is now left up to the DA’s Office and the District Court, but nothing prevents me from bringing paperwork to the DA’s Office if I see a Defendant who perhaps should not be released for dangerousness.  I’ve done these numerous times since the new rules took effect last summer.

7.  I am the only Magistrate Judge that I know of who routinely contacts Child Protective Services whenever I see evidence that a child has been abused or neglected, even though our state’s Children’s Code requires that all judges do so.

8.  I ALWAYS advise defendants’ of their constitutional rights, and explain these rights in Plain English as opposed to just the legalese contained on the forms we use.  It doesn’t matter if it is just a seat belt ticket or a first-degree murder charge.


Thanks for all you do.



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