DA dismisses child molestation case

Prosecutor says too soon for victim testimony, but plans to seek grand jury indictment

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 1/31/19

The 8th Judicial District Attorney’s office in Taos has dismissed a case alleging a Questa man molested his partner’s daughter and battered the young girl’s friend during a …

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DA dismisses child molestation case

Prosecutor says too soon for victim testimony, but plans to seek grand jury indictment

Posted

Updated Thursday (Jan. 31) at 1 p.m.

The 8th Judicial District Attorney’s office in Taos has dismissed a case alleging a Questa man molested his partner’s daughter and battered the young girl’s friend during a sleepover at a Peñasco residence on Jan. 12.

Raymond M. Hernandez, 29, was charged with the crimes on Jan. 14, but was released on an unsecured appearance bond the following day after prosecutors didn’t argue why he should be kept in jail. They say they didn’t have proper documentation to do so, but the investigating agency, the Taos County Sheriff’s Office, has disagreed.

The 29-year-old was arrested two more times this month: on Jan. 17, to face charges for allegedly raping a 19-month-old at the same residence, and on Monday (Jan. 28), after he was accused of raping a 5-year-old at a neighbor’s house.

Deputy District Attorney Ron Olsen said in an update provided after press time Wednesday that both crimes took place prior to the first time Hernandez was released this month.

A copy of the motion to dismiss the Jan. 14 case was posted to Facebook Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 29). State prosecutor Tim Hasson noted in the motion that a preliminary examination would have to be held no later than Thursday (Jan. 31) in accordance with state rules, which allow 10 days when a defendant is held in custody.

He reasoned that it would be too soon to ask the teen victims to testify.

“In this case, the alleged victims would have to testify,” Hasson wrote. “The state will not require two young teenage girls to publicly testify, subject to cross-examination, about being sexually assaulted, within weeks of those alleged assaults.”

Olsen said the office will be presenting evidence in the case to a grand jury to seek an indictment at a future date.

Last summer, District Attorney Donald Gallegos and his team were criticized after they failed to hold a preliminary examination within the 10-day window for five adults arrested at a compound near Amalia on charges of child abuse.

Prosecutors have the option to file motions to hold defendants without bond in order to extend that deadline. If they can show a defendant is either a danger to their community or might flee the county, state or country, a judge may rule in their favor, extending the timeline to 60 days.

But Ron Olsen, a spokesperson for the DA, stated this week that his office didn’t have the necessary documentation to file such a motion.

Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe disagreed, saying his office had filed all of the necessary documents to argue why Hernandez should stay in jail.

Court records accessed by The Taos News showed statements of probable cause had been filed that contained specific evidence to support the charges against Hernandez.

In the sexual assault case filed Jan. 14, both the 13-year-old girl who was molested and Hernandez’s girlfriend provided detailed statements about the alleged assault. An examination by a nurse trained to detect signs of physical abuse on sexual assault victims was also ordered, but the results of the exam were not filed before the DA dismissed the case this week.

While Chief Judge Ernest Ortega recommended Hernandez be held without bond the day the case was filed, he ruled to release the 29-year-old on a $10,000 unsecured appearance bond the next day after the DA’s office didn’t argue to hold the defendant.

Court documents filed in the two rape cases also contained specific evidence.

According to a statement of probable cause filed Jan. 17, a witness told sexual assault experts that Hernandez had raped the 19-month-old child. A nurse also found evidence the child had been raped during a physical exam.

The day Hernandez was released in that case on Jan. 24, a probable cause statement regarding the alleged rape of the 5-year-old was filed.

In the report, the child is quoted as saying she was experiencing pain in her genital area. She also allegedly provided the name “Raymond” when asked by her mother about a man in their neighborhood who had been assaulting children.

"Child abuse investigations are particularly sensitive for victims, and confidentially should be protected," Ron Olsen said, elaborating on Hasson's motion to dismiss the case. "For victims and their families, the effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating. Feelings of significant distress, betrayal, stigmatization, anxiety, withdrawal, low self-esteem or self-loathing are common, and can have significant short and long-term effects.

A prosecutor must always weigh these well-documented effects with their duty to seek justice both for victims and our community."

Jail logs provided by the county indicated that Hernandez was still being held at the Taos County Adult Detention Center on Tuesday (Jan. 29).

He is scheduled for an arraignment related to the alleged rape of the 5-year-old on Thursday (Jan. 31) in magistrate court.

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