Prosecutor dismisses rape case against Taos High teen

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 5/10/19

A prosecutor with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in early May dismissed one of two rape cases filed against a male student at Taos High School in 2018, laying the blame for …

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Prosecutor dismisses rape case against Taos High teen

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A prosecutor with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in early May dismissed one of two rape cases filed against a male student at Taos High School in 2018, laying the blame for the dismissal on the agency that investigated the case.

Deputy District Attorney Tim Hasson noted in the dismissal the tight time constraints imposed on juvenile cases as compared to adult cases. He claimed that former Taos Police Detective Bill North had failed to submit certain pieces of evidence to his office in time before retiring April 1, an assertion that both North and Taos Police Chief David Trujillo said was untrue this week.

Hasson also filed the dismissal, in part, due to pressure from Taos public defender Aleksandar Kostich, who has been representing the now 18-year-old student accused of raping two female students between August 2017 and October 2018.

School Resource Officer Henry Sanchez told The Taos News earlier this year that the teenager was accused of raping the first alleged victim on three separate occasions on school property in August and September 2017, when he was 16 years old.

A juvenile delinquency petition charging the teen with three counts of criminal sexual penetration in the second degree wasn’t filed until Oct. 15, 2018, however, a delay which North said this week was due to a “mix-up,” where he thought Hasson had received the case when he actually had not.

The case first was filed six days after the teenage boy allegedly raped the second teenage girl, who also attended the high school. In that case, Trujillo said the boy was charged with one count of criminal sexual penetration in the second degree and one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor in the fourth degree.

Sanchez also previously said that the girls later left Taos High School, in part, because the alleged victims may have feared retaliation from the boy’s friends, while the accused had returned to attend classes in an after-school program.

Kostich filed a motion on April 25 to dismiss the case pertaining to the 2017 allegations, a little more than a week after an adjudication hearing was cancelled to try the boy on the charges.

He wrote that Hasson had not shared with him certain reports, statements and video evidence, a violation of a basic court rule wherein evidence gathered by one party is disclosed to the other party in a case.

It was unclear, however, based on court documents, what exactly was contained in the missing evidence.

While Hasson disputed some of the claims in Kostich’s motion, he ultimately agreed that “the motion to dismiss also raised some legitimate complaints about the nondiscovery of certain items.”

The reason, he wrote, could be traced back to Taos Police Department.

“While this case includes some factors making it more complex than the average case, and while the complexity of the case has contributed somewhat to the delays, part of the delay in this case is due to difficulties obtaining all the case evidence from the Taos Police Department, despite numerous written requests,” Hasson wrote.

Before filing the dismissal, Hasson said he met with Trujillo at the district attorney’s office, where they reviewed North’s case file. Hasson said he met with the chief because North had since retired “and could not be reached.”

Hasson wrote that the file “revealed even more items that had never been provided to the DA’s office and, therefore, had not been provided to the defense as required.”

After an adjudication hearing was extended twice, Hasson said there wouldn’t be enough time left to gather the missing evidence while remaining within the legal time limits to hold the hearing.

But Trujillo said on May 6 that there was no validity to Hasson’s claim, and said his office had shared all requested evidence with the DA’s office.

He said Hasson’s assistant is responsible for submitting requests for additional evidence through a software program called “GovQA,” which tracks requests and submissions.

Trujillo said, “for this particular case, we only received [one] request for information for this case through GovQA and the information was sent by Taos PD and received on their end, giving us [receipt].”

Trujillo said he has reviewed the logs in the system and could only find a record of one request for five items of evidence, which he said were submitted to Hasson.

“The request and receipt made it evident that there were no other requests sent for the evidence as claimed in the filed dismissal,” Trujillo said, adding that if informal requests for evidence were made, those would fall outside of the standard manner in which his office communicates with the DA’s office.

The 18-year-old accused of the crimes is set to appear for an adjudication hearing in the remaining case on June 11 at 1:15 p.m. before Judge Jeff McElroy.

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