Hysteria v. Reason: Taos Judge Under Siege

By: Bill Whaley
17 August, 2018


“Do the Right Thing”


In an age based on rumor and tweets, half-truths, lack of logic, denial of the facts, local and nationwide readers respond to half-baked editorials in which opinion writers ignore the printed stories in their own newspapers, fueling the hysteria on social networks.

Even as headline writers claimed a local Judge released the “Amalia five” on bail, the chief culprit remained in jail on a warrant from Georgia, one of the women remained in jail on a hold from ICE, and the other three, at last report, hadn’t met “conditions of release.” (They had no residence to which they could be confined on ankle bracelets.)

Editorial opinions in The Taos News and Santa Fe New Mexican, alternately praised and blamed Judge Backus honor while disagreeing with the decision on “bail” because the accused were dangerous and flight risks. But this claim beggars the imagination: the accused have “11” children” discretely deposited in local foster homes to whom they are attached regardless of pain and suffering. As the judge pointed out, the accused have no “history of violence” indicating they are a danger to the community.

Meanwhile, death threats and invective are being hurled at the Judge, not unlike the “tweets” thrown about re: Robert Mueller by the President who also attacks the rule of law.


Still we must hold our elected officials accountable, whether courageous Sheriffs, scribes at the DA’s office, or whether a judge whose carefully considered eight-page opinion re: bail for defendants in the “Amalia bust” met the letter of the law.

To wit, as reported in the Albuquerque Journal, a reputable newspaper when it comes to reporting, “Backus wrote that prosecutors didn’t provide any evidence of child abuse when asking her to hold Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39, Lucas Morton, 40, Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhanah Wahhaj, 35. All five remain in custody as of Wednesday evening.

“The judge did admit that she was presented with “troubling” evidence at Monday’s no-bond hearing in Taos, but that it didn’t prove dangerousness to the community. And she said prosecutors asked her to make a lot of assumptions.”

“The charges in all these cases are for child abuse,” Backus wrote.

“The State produced no evidence of any abuse. … The Court has no information and none was presented as to their current conditions.”

Why didn’t the Taos County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s office bring in medical staff to check on the condition of the 11 children before releasing them to CYFD? Why didn’t CYFD bring in a Pediatrician and/or registered nurse to check the kids? (Remember how the Thailand soccer boys were thoroughly examined and cared for my hospital staff before being released?)

As for claims of “terrorism” or preparations for attacking institutions, “The State did not produce any evidence of any history of violence that would cause the Court to conclude that they are a danger to the community or are unlikely to appear at hearings or to abide by their conditions of release,” the judge wrote.

(As the Journal remarked, “The defendants also didn’t have a criminal history, which is one criterion judges use when determining dangerousness.”)

In other words, the FBI, TCSO, and DA’s office claimed but did not provide evidence of “radicalized” Islamic terrorism other than repeating popular prejudice against Black Muslims, calling them “extremists.” Yet according to Sheriff Holgrefe the accused were under surveillance by the FBI. Further the property owner lawfully notified the local Magistrate Court of his problems with the miscreants and called state police earlier in the year, who observed the compound but did not act.

Where were the agents of Homeland Security if these alleged “terrorists” were so dangerous?


Certainly, the TCSO demonstrated unusual physical courage in taking down the armed leader, surrounded by weapons and ammunition (while Deputy Steve Miera on sniper duty kept an eye on this dangerous dude). But, despite the presence of an AR-15, the alleged “radical” did not respond violently upon entry by TSCO. Tragedy was averted.

Just as talk is cheap so hearsay is inadmissible. Allegedly the FBI interviewed two teenage boys who claimed they, the kids, were being trained to shoot and attack institutions. Why weren’t the witnesses called to court by the government? Why didn’t the FBI, DA, or TCSO video tape the kids and present the testimony?

Even as the remains of a child have been identified now by the Office of Medical Investigation, claims of inappropriate care have been asserted but not proven. So far “child abuse” remains the only charge presented, however weakly, in court. The DA, the TCSO, and CYFD have yet to provide the public or the court with specific evidence other than “claims” of negligence, a text message, suspicious circumstances, and popular prejudice.

Everyone in the community supports TSCO’s courageous actions and deplores the condition of the children. But now the TCSO and DA’s office need do the hard work of “thinking” and “investigation,” follow the facts and provide the evidence, based on “reason” not bald assertions without examples.

El Mitote may rule social media and prejudice prove the organizing principle for politicians but we, as a community, need to stand with a judge, who has the courage to implement the “rule of law” and require that law enforcement and the prosecutors provide “probable cause” and evidence, not rumor and popular prejudice as organizing principle.

Many possess “physical courage” but few possess the “moral courage” to do the right thing. Judge Backus is lighting the way in this tunnel of moral myopia. Now it’s time for TCSO and the DA to put a pencil to the paper and clarify i.e. light up the facts about the “Amalia Five.”

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