Judges Reprimand DA, Enforce the Law. Amalia Three Free

By: Bill Whaley
30 August, 2018

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Karl Marx

Taos readers of the Friction are familiar with about 18 years of misdeeds at the DA’s office under Donald Gallegos: to name a few, the blown investigation of the Ma Barker Gang robbery of KCEC (200 grand), the Plumber’s Crack Case (50 mug shots on front page of Taos News), the unsolved execution-style murder of Earl and Clarissa Gonzales (see below), the Red River Rape case (despite a grand jury indictment and an extraordinary investigation by then Marshal Jerry Hogrefe), the Memorial Holiday Red River Motorcycle Massacre (two deaths, two survivors crippled for life but no consequences for the DA’s “la buena gente), and so on, ad nauseam.

Course at the recent “Amalia Compound” hearing mentioned below, the DA was MIA, whether preparing for his preferred life as hunting guide or moonlighting at Taos Pueblo Trial Court or attending retirement parties for life long prosecutors and sanctioned DAs, we don’t know. But the Judges mentioned below, ironically, McElroy and Chavez, used to work for the DA: both made their chops as assistant and deputy prosecutors before becoming judges.

We congratulate Judges McElroy and Erminio Chavez for separating themselves from the politicized environment not only from the Taos DA’s notorious policy of “politicized” prosecution but as well for saying “No” to the political prejudice directed at Judge Backus by the NRA and Fox News.

Thank you for re-asserting judicial sanity in the Taos County District Court.

Excerpts From my favorite state-wide journalist.

By Edmundo Carrillo / Journal Staff Writer
(Albuquerque Journal) Published: Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 at 12:40pm

“TAOS – District Court judges [McElroy and Chavez] in Taos on Wednesday dismissed all the initial child abuse counts against five defendants arrested at a remote Taos County compound earlier this month, and three got out of jail late in the afternoon” (because the DA’s office missed the deadline to hold a preliminary hearing within ten days).

“From the bench, McElroy also blasted the office of District Attorney Donald Gallegos of Taos for how the charges have been handled, citing a “complete failure to follow proper procedures in prosecuting the case,” which has attracted national attention because of alleged terrorism plans by the compound residents.

“McElroy blamed prosecutors for putting judges in the position of having to release the defendants and for threats that another judge received over a previous ruling in the case.

“I’m obliged under my oath to uphold the law of the state, and there is no reason why the District Attorney’s Office didn’t file a request for a preliminary hearing,” Judge McElroy said from the bench. “… It’s disturbing to me that the District Attorney’s Office would put the court in this position. … It was not the decision of this court. It was the decision of the district attorney.”

“Judge Chavez, at the morning hearing, said there was no way he could retroactively grant an extension of the 10-day period for a preliminary hearing. He said the New Mexico court rule governing the issue is “relatively clear.”

“That’s about as unambiguous as a rule that we get in our criminal procedure,” the judge said.

“At his hearing, Judge McElroy raised the issue of whether these more serious charges involving the death of young Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj should also be dropped, because they were filed by the Sheriff’s Office late last week, well after law enforcement’s Aug. 3 compound raid, instead of by the office of District Attorney Donald Gallegos or another prosecuting agency, such as the state Attorney General’s Office.

“The judge asked attorneys from both sides to file briefs on that issue.”

Hogrefe has obviously given up on the DA so now he files his own charges, ex post facto criminal trespass and felony child abuse, conspiracy, etc. Despite the tardy response to the Amalia Bust, given the announced time of death of the child, Dec. 24, 2017, surveillance, and public knowledge of the compound, unlike the DA, the TCSO is at least learning to “investigate” and “secure the evidence” prior to going to court. What a concept.

Still, the atmosphere and prejudicial remarks by the Sheriff and DA implying that “extremists” “black Muslims,” and “terrorists” were loose, though in jail, brought down death threats on Judge Backus. With friends like these Sarah doesn’t need enemies.

(Horse Fly, Jan. 16, 2007)
Earl & Clarissa

In April of 2000, the aspiring D.A. [Gallegos] made another campaign promise, saying he would pursue the murder investigation of Earl and Clarissa Gonzales of Questa. Earl Gonzales was shot execution style and his nine-year-old daughter, Clarissa, was strangled on or about Sept. 2, 1999, according to police reports. More than seven years later, nobody has ever been arrested in these unsolved murders.


During a public forum, when he ran for re-election in 2004, Gallegos, in a response to a question from the audience regarding the unsolved murder, said it was up to the community to come forward with the evidence. (My bold)


A former criminal client of Mr. Gallegos’s, José Rael, may have been present at the scene before the murders of Earl and Clarissa, raising troubling questions about Gallegos’s failure to pursue the investigation. Are Earl and Clarissa’s restless spirits never to find peace, because those involved in their murder were “good people”?


At a juvenile detention hearing on Jan. 6, 2004, under cross examination by defense attorney Jeff Shannon, D.A. investigator Bill Hubbard testified regarding the defendant’s altercation involving José Rael of Questa. According to the police reports and court documents, Mr. Rael had an extensive criminal record, involving violent acts and alcohol-related crimes, and was cited for the unlawful taking of murder victim Earl Gonzales’s vehicle, sometime between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, 1999 (a day after the murder).

Mr. Hubbard mentioned that he and Chad Davis of the New Mexico State Police were the investigators assigned to the unsolved murder of Earl and Clarissa Gonzalez. José Rael had been “involved in the investigation of Earl Gonzales,” according to Hubbard, although “as a party, not a suspect,” and might have been present at the scene before the murder.

Back in 2000, Rael was put on probation for the above-mentioned car theft, following a recommendation from the Children, Youth, and Families Department on Feb. 28, 2000. His defense attorney at the time was Donald Gallegos.

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