Acoma man sentenced for absconding prior to fatal crash

• Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine on a probation violation she previously released him on
• Faustine allegedly fled from police while drunk and crashed, killing Timothy Chino, two days after Villalobos released him on an absconder warrant

See the case write-up or previous stories

GRANTS, N.M. — An Acoma man will serve the remainder of his state sentence for drunk driving while he is held pending trial on a federal charge of second-degree murder that happened two days after a state judge released him on an absconder warrant.

Anthony Faustine

District Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine, 40, on Sept. 1, to 417 days after he admitted to violating his probation in the his 2016 DWI 3rd offense and fleeing an officer case. She also ordered him discharged from probation.

Faustine is in federal custody after a federal grand jury indicted him on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash on April 22, 2020 that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Villalobos released Faustine, being held on an absconder warrant, on April 20, 2020, two days before he allegedly crashed a car while drunk, killing Chino. He was allegedly fleeing from tribal police officers when he crashed, according to tribal court documents.

He was initially arrested on April 9, 2020 on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018, after he failed to appear for a hearing on the absconder allegations already filed against him, as well as a motion to revoke his probation, before Villalobos released him.

On Oct. 7, 2016, Faustine pleaded guilty to aggravated fleeing an officer, DWI third offense and driving on a license revoked for DWI, for an incident on Jan. 14, 2016, according to court documents.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

The plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

The original file in the magistrate case appears has been destroyed.

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Arizona man pleads to involuntary manslaughter without deal in DWI killing

Maroquez Clah pleaded guilty without a plea deal
• He faces a maximum sentence of eight years for killing Darrel Chavez, 22

See the case write-up or read more stories about this case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Maroquez Clah pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Sept. 21,  for killing his friend in a drunk driving crash near Mitten Rock.

Clah, 28, of Red Valley, Ariz., pleaded guilty without a plea agreement and he faces a maximum sentence of eight years for the Aug. 30, 2019 crash that killed Darrell Chavez, 22.

Panoramic photo of Red Valley, Arizona, with no buildings in sight.
Red Valley, about a mile west of the New Mexico state line, 36.5845 -109.0732, Apache County, Arizona, 5/17/2014. Photo by Patrick Alexander/Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA

According to the plea minute sheet, Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar accepted the plea. Robbenhaar allowed Clah to remain on his current conditions of release. He is living with his parents in Red Valley.

According to a proffer of evidence at trial filed by federal prosecutor Novaline Wilson, Clah acted with “wanton and reckless disregard for human life” when he drove drunk.

No sentencing date has been set.

A grand jury indicted Clah on a charge of involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 25, 2019 for crashing his truck while drunk near Mitten Rock, killing Chavez. He was not arrested until Feb. 14, 2020.  Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones released him to a halfway house over the objection of prosecutor Wilson. Briones refused to release him to his home in Red Valley to help his ailing parents amid the coronavirus pandemic. Federal District Court Judge Kea Riggs overruled Briones and ordered him released on April 20, 2020.

Details of the crash

FBI Agent Lancy Roundy wrote in a search warrant filed for Clah’s truck on Sept. 4, 2019, that Clah told federal investigators, while in the hospital, he had been drinking alcohol throughout the day prior to driving from Farmington to his home in Red Valley, Arizona. Chavez is referred to as “John Doe” in court records.

“Clah recalled John Doe being a passenger of his vehicle at some point during the drive,” Roundy wrote. “Clah admitted to drinking vodka approximately six hours prior to driving his vehicle home and remembered losing control of the vehicle while driving approximately 70 miles per hour before the vehicle rolled several times.”

Roundy wrote that, according to Clah’s hospital records from his treatment after the crash, his blood-alcohol content was 0.258, over three times the legal limit of 0.08.

According to Chavez’s autopsy report, he was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the truck during the crash.

Continue reading “Arizona man pleads to involuntary manslaughter without deal in DWI killing”

Acoma man arraigned for killing man in DWI crash after fleeing police

• Police say Anthony Faustine allegedly drunkenly crashed his car after fleeing from police on a dirt road, killing passenger Timothy Chino, on April 22, 2020
• Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos released Faustine one day prior after arraigning him on a bench warrant after he didn’t appear at an arraignment on a probation violation from 2018

• Faustine’s original probation violation was for allegedly absconding from probation after pleading guilty to DUI and aggravated fleeing an officer

Read the full case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 40-year-old Acoma Pueblo man is being held without bail after being arraigned Monday in federal court on a charge of second-degree murder for the death of a man following an alleged drunk driving crash following a police pursuit on April 22, 2020, one day after he was released from jail on a probation violation on a prior charge of aggravated fleeing an officer and drunk driving.

Anthony Faustine

A federal grand jury indicted Anthony Faustine on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered Faustine held without bail, and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, during his virtual arraignment, Monday (8/31/2020). Faustine pleaded not guilty and waived a detention hearing.

According to federal court filings, Faustine was being held in the Cibola County Detention Center in Grants prior to his initial appearance on Aug. 27, 2020.

Faustine appears to have been initially jailed, following the crash, after Laguna Pueblo tribal police officer Brandon Mariano charged him in Laguna Pueblo tribal court with homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, aggravated DUI and battery following the April 22, 2020 crash.

Villalobos ordered Faustine released on April 20 after he was arrested earlier that month on a December 2018 bench warrant for his failure to appear at an arraignment for a prior alleged probation violation.

The crash

Laguna tribal police officer Brandon Mariano wrote in a criminal complaint, filed in Laguna Tribal Court, that a call about a red Suzuki first came to dispatchers at 3:23 p.m., April 22, 2020.

An unknown woman told them the car was swerving on eastbound Interstate-40 and almost hit her car, just before it left on Exit 104, toward State Road 124. Officers were sent to look for the car, he wrote.

Laguna Highway Safety Officer Keith Riley told Mariano that while searching, he talked to a construction foreman on Rainfall Road, Mariano wrote.

“The foreman told HSO Riley that the vehicle which Officers were looking for passed through their work zone and nearly hit a few of the workers while it was passing through,” Mariano wrote. “HSO Riley was also told the vehicle was traveling on Cottonwood Trail, headed toward the Pueblo of Acoma.”

Riley and Laguna Police Department Officer Roslynn Lente found the red Suzuki near the border of Acoma and Laguna on Cottonwood Trail. Riley pulled in front of the car with his emergency lights, exited and told the driver to get out. The driver, later identified as Faustine, allegedly refused, revved the engine and sped away from Riley, Mariano wrote.

Riley “contacted the hood” as it sped off and Lente was “nearly to the vehicle” when Riley told her to stay in her car, as Faustine allegedly sped by her, Mariano wrote.

As the red Suzuki Sidekick sped away, the officers began to pursue it, then Riley called it off because it was on a dirt road, he wrote.

“HSO Riley then said just as he was finished the vehicle drove around a corner and began to roll,” Mariano wrote.

When the pair arrived at the crash scene, Faustine allegedly ran from the vehicle and Riley chased him on foot and told Lente to tend to the other two people in the car, he wrote.

Riley unholstered his stun gun and told Faustine to stop. Faustine fell to the ground and Riley placed him “restraints.” Faustine smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes and could not maintain his balance, Mariano wrote.

The crash ejected the front passenger, Timothy Chino, and pinned him under the vehicle. The other passenger, Katrina Juanico, was in the back seat and airlifted from the scene, he wrote.

While one medic, Isaac Herrera, tried to get Faustine’s blood pressure, Faustine allegedly tried to bit him. Faustine was eventually transported by ambulance for his injuries, Mariano wrote.

Mariano wrote he found Bud Light beer cans from the “beginning to the end of the crash,” as well as two bottles of vodka, he wrote.

Probation violations

On April 20, 2020, District Court Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos ordered Faustine released from jail after arraigning him on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018 after he failed to appear for his arraignment on the original probation violation.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

He had been in custody since April 9, 2020, when the Isleta Police Department arrested him on the warrant.

Probation Officer Eric Barela wrote in a probation report dated Oct. 25, 2018 that Faustine was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of supervised probation on Oct. 6, 2016, on the DUI third offense and aggravated fleeing an officer charges.

“Since being sentenced Probationer Faustine has completed sanctions of 3 days and 7 days in custody due to violations of Reporting and Alcohol,” Barela wrote. “Probationer Faustine has shown by calling Cordant and failing to report for UA’s that he understands that he is violating his probation and continues to disreguard (sic) the orders of this court and his orders of probation.”

Barela wrote in the 2018 report that Faustine’s convictions, along with his failure to report and to complete drug and alcohol tests, meant he was a danger to the community.

“Probationer Faustine is now and (sic) ABSCONDER from supervision and has proven that he does not take probation serious and is not a good candidate for supervised probation,” Barela wrote.

Barela wrote he was asking that the prosecutor file a motion to revoke his probation and sentence him to the remainder of his sentence, which would have had him in jail until June 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Sherry Thompson filed a motion to revoke Faustine’s probation on Nov. 15, 2018. She included the original plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, which gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

When he was supposed to be arraigned on the probation violation charges, he never showed up, leading to the Dec. 13, 2018 bench warrant, eventually served on April 9, 2020, by the Isleta Police Department, according to court records.

After Faustine was arraigned on April 20, 2020, Barela issued a violation report on May 1, 2020, after Faustine failed to report for probation, followed by another on May 5. Sanchez Villalobos issued a bench warrant on May 6. It appears he did not know about the crash until, May 13, when he received a notification of arrest for Faustine. It listed him as in the Laguna jail.

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Anthony Faustine: Timothy Chino — 4-22-2020

Suspect: Anthony Faustine

Victim: Timothy Chino

Non-fatal victim: Katrina Juanico

Charges: Second-degree murder, assault resulting in serious bodily injury

Incident type: DWI crash following a police chase

Date of incident: April 22, 2020

Status: Pending

Investigating Agency: Bureau of Indian Affairs

Prosecutor: Nicholas Marshall

Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Location: Cottonwood Trail, near the border of Laguna and Acoma pueblos, Cibola County

Federal magistrate case number: None

Federal district case number: 20-cr-01365

Probation state case number: D-1333-CR-2016-00041

 

Summary

On April 22, 2020, Anthony Faustine, 40, of Acoma, allegedly crashed his car while drunk after fleeing from police. Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos released him one day earlier after he was arrested on a failure-to-appear bench warrant issued after he allegedly absconded from probation in 2018. He fled from the crash, leaving a man under his car who died at the scene, according to an investigator’s report. A woman was also severely injured and flown from the scene, according to the report. Laguna Pueblo tribal officers charged him following the crash.

On June 9, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of second-degree murder and assault and battery resulting in serious bodily harm.

On Aug. 31, a federal magistrate judge ordered he be held without bail pending trial.

The crash

Laguna tribal police officer Brandon Mariano wrote in a criminal complaint, filed in Laguna Tribal Court, that a call about a red Suzuki first came to dispatchers at 3:23 p.m., April 22, 2020.

Anthony Faustine

An unknown woman told them the car was swerving on eastbound Interstate-40 and almost hit her car, just before it left on Exit 104, toward State Road 124. Officers were sent to look for the car, he wrote.

Laguna Highway Safety Officer Keith Riley told Mariano that while searching, he talked to a construction foreman on Rainfall Road, Mariano wrote.

“The foreman told HSO Riley that the vehicle which Officers were looking for passed through their work zone and nearly hit a few of the workers while it was passing through,” Mariano wrote. “HSO Riley was also told the vehicle was traveling on Cottonwood Trail, headed toward the Pueblo of Acoma.”

Riley and Laguna Police Department Officer Roslynn Lente found the red Suzuki near the border of Acoma and Laguna on Cottonwood Trail. Riley pulled in front of the car with his emergency lights, exited and told the driver to get out. The driver, later identified as Faustine, allegedly refused, revved the engine and sped away from Riley, Mariano wrote.

Riley “contacted the hood” as it sped off and Lente was “nearly to the vehicle” when Riley told her to stay in her car, as Faustine allegedly sped by her, Mariano wrote.

As the red Suzuki Sidekick sped away, the officers began to pursue it, then Riley called it off because it was on a dirt road, he wrote.

“HSO Riley then said just as he was finished the vehicle drove around a corner and began to roll,” Mariano wrote.

When the pair arrived at the crash scene, Faustine allegedly ran from the vehicle and Riley chased him on foot and told Lente to tend to the other two people in the car, he wrote.

Riley unholstered his stun gun and told Faustine to stop. Faustine fell to the ground and Riley placed him “restraints.” Faustine smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes and could not maintain his balance, Mariano wrote.

The crash ejected the front passenger, Timothy Chino, and pinned him under the vehicle. The other passenger, Katrina Juanico, was in the back seat and airlifted from the scene, he wrote.

While one medic, Isaac Herrera, tried to get Faustine’s blood pressure, Faustine allegedly tried to bit him. Faustine was eventually transported by ambulance for his injuries, Mariano wrote.

Mariano wrote he found Bud Light beer cans from the “beginning to the end of the crash,” as well as two bottles of vodka, he wrote.

Indictment

A federal grand jury indicted Faustine on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Ariel view of Laguna. Photo by Dickyon/Wikimedia

Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered Faustine held without bail, and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, during his virtual arraignment, Monday (8/31/2020). Faustine pleaded not guilty and waived a detention hearing.

According to federal court filings, Faustine was being held in the Cibola County Detention Center in Grants prior to his initial appearance on Aug. 27, 2020.

Faustine appears to have been initially jailed, following the crash, after Laguna Pueblo tribal police officer Brandon Mariano charged him in Laguna Pueblo tribal court with homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, aggravated DUI and battery following the April 22, 2020 crash.

Probation violations

On April 20, 2020, District Court Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos ordered Faustine released from jail after arraigning him on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018 after he failed to appear for his arraignment on the original probation violation.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

He had been in custody since April 9, 2020, when the Isleta Police Department arrested him on the warrant.

Probation Officer Eric Barela wrote in a probation report dated Oct. 25, 2018 that Faustine was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of supervised probation on Oct. 6, 2016, on the DUI third offense and aggravated fleeing an officer charges.

“Since being sentenced Probationer Faustine has completed sanctions of 3 days and 7 days in custody due to violations of Reporting and Alcohol,” Barela wrote. “Probationer Faustine has shown by calling Cordant and failing to report for UA’s that he understands that he is violating his probation and continues to disreguard (sic) the orders of this court and his orders of probation.”

Barela wrote in the 2018 report that Faustine’s convictions, along with his failure to report and to complete drug and alcohol tests, meant he was a danger to the community.

“Probationer Faustine is now and (sic) ABSCONDER from supervision and has proven that he does not take probation serious and is not a good candidate for supervised probation,” Barela wrote.

Barela wrote he was asking that the prosecutor file a motion to revoke his probation and sentence him to the remainder of his sentence, which would have had him in jail until June 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Sherry Thompson filed a motion to revoke Faustine’s probation on Nov. 15, 2018. She included the original plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, which gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

When he was supposed to be arraigned on the probation violation charges, he never showed up, leading to the Dec. 13, 2018 bench warrant, eventually served on April 9, 2020, by the Isleta Police Department, according to court records.

After Faustine was arraigned on April 20, 2020, Barela issued a violation report on May 1, 2020, after Faustine failed to report for probation, followed by another on May 5. Sanchez Villalobos issued a bench warrant on May 6. It appears he did not know about the crash until, May 13, when he received a notification of arrest for Faustine. It listed him as in the Laguna jail.

Sentenced on probation violations

Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine, 40, on Sept. 1, 2020, to 417 days after he admitted to violating his probation in the his 2016 DWI 3rd offense and fleeing an officer case. She also ordered him discharged from probation.

Stories on this case

Acoma man sentenced for absconding prior to fatal crash

Acoma man arraigned for killing man in DWI crash after fleeing police

 

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Judge releases Arizona man to family amid the coronavirus pandemic

  • A federal district judge ordered Maroquez Clah released from an Albuquerque halfway house to his parents’ home in Red Valley, Ariz.
  • The district judge granted Clah’s appeal, overruling federal magistrate Judge Paul Briones, who refused to release him
  • Prosecutor Novaline Wilson opposed Clah’s release request in what could be an improperly sealed opposition 

See the case write-up or read more stories about this case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Red Valley, Ariz. man will get to return home to take care of his ailing father, help is elderly mother and raise his daughter after a federal District Court judge ordered him released from an Albuquerque halfway house, overruling a federal magistrate judge, and federal prosecutor, who wanted to keep him in a communal setting despite the risk of the coronavirus, in a ruling April 20, 2020.

Panoramic photo of Red Valley, Arizona, with no buildings in sight.
Red Valley, about a mile west of the New Mexico state line, 36.5850 -109.0712, Apache County, Arizona, 5/17/2014. Photo by Patrick Alexander/Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA

Federal District Court Judge Kea Riggs granted Maroquez Clah’s appeal on April 20, 2020, and ordered him released.

Clah is charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly crashing his truck while drunk, which killed Darrell Chavez, 22, on Aug. 30, 2019, near Mitten Rock, New Mexico. A grand jury indicted him on Nov. 25, 2019 but he was not arrested until Feb. 14, 2020 and released to a halfway house on Feb. 20, 2020, after he was arraigned by Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones, and over the objection of prosecutor Novaline Wilson. (Read more on the details of the crash in the case write-up or read previous stories about the case.)

Briones denied Clah’s request to be allowed to move to Red Valley, Ariz., to take care of his parents and daughter, on April 1, 2020 and wrote in his denial that the dangers of the halfway house were justified because of Clah’s “pattern of prior conduct” and that his defense attorney didn’t show that there are “sufficient safeguards” to protect the community from the risk of Clah drinking and driving, if he isn’t living at the halfway house.

Continue reading “Judge releases Arizona man to family amid the coronavirus pandemic”

Judge: Arizona man not allowed to take care of ailing parents during coronavirus pandemic

  • Maroquez Clah wants to be released from an Albuquerque halfway house to his parents’ home in Red Valley, Ariz., because of the coronavirus and his parents’ health
  • Federal magistrate Judge Paul Briones wrote Clah poses too much of a risk to the community because of one prior drunk driving conviction
  • Prosecutor Novaline Wilson opposed Clah’s request in what could be an improperly sealed opposition 

See the case write-up or read more stories about this case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Despite approval from pretrial services officers, the looming threat of the coronavirus pandemic and a father slipping into dementia, a federal magistrate judge on April 1 refused to let a Red Valley, Ariz. man return home to help his elderly parents, relying on what appears to be an improperly sealed filing by a U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor, and he is appealing the decision.

Mitten Rock, off of Navajo Route 13 (Indian Services Route 13), New Mexico. Photo by James St. John/Flickr

Maroquez Clah is charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly crashing his truck while drunk, which killed a passenger identified as D.C. (YOB: 1997), on Aug. 30, 2019, near Mitten Rock, New Mexico. A grand jury indicted him on Nov. 25, 2019 but he was not arrested until Feb. 14, 2020. According to the federal docket sheet, Clah was released to a halfway house in Albuquerque on Feb. 20, 2020, after he was arraigned by federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones.

On April 1, Briones denied Clah’s request to move from a halfway house in Albuquerque to his parents’ home in Red Valley, filed March 23. Briones did not have a hearing and instead relied on the emergency motion filed by Clah’s attorney, Emily Carey, and the opposition filed under seal by prosecutor Novaline Wilson. However, Wilson’s filing under seal appears to be against court rules on sealing documents, which require a judge’s consent and are only supposed to be done for very good reasons.

According to the local rules and federal court rules, documents are only supposed to be filed under seal for good reason and a record of the motion to file a document under seal is supposed to appear on the court docket, as outlined by Jeff Proctor in New Mexico In Depth.

Carey filed an appeal of Briones’ order on April 6, but no further documents or hearings have been docketed in the case.

She wrote in the initial motion that Briones, during the arraignment, said if Clah “performed well” at the halfway house, he would consider “possible modification” the conditions of his release. The current conditions restrict his travel to Bernalillo county. The minutes contain no details of what was said.

Wilson opposed Clah’s release pending trial during the arraignment, while pretrial officers suggested release, according to the minutes.

Carey wrote that Clah’s father is on dialysis and his health has recently declined and his mother, Bessie Begay, contacted her to say that his father has “developed something akin to dementia.”

Before being arrested, Clah “took on all of the household tasks and helped his mother with his father’s health care.” He also took care of his 4-year-old daughter, who is now in Begay’s custody, she wrote.

Continue reading “Judge: Arizona man not allowed to take care of ailing parents during coronavirus pandemic”

Maroquez Clah: Darrell Chavez — 8-30-2019

Suspect: Maroquez Clah

Victim: Darrell Chavez, 22

Charges: Involuntary manslaughter

Date of incident: Aug. 30, 2019

Type of incident: DWI crash

Status: Plea without a deal; pending sentencing, maximum 8 years

Investigating Agency: FBI

Location: Mile Marker 2, Navajo Route 13 (Indian Services Route 13) Mitten Rock, NM

Federal district case number: 19-cr-4447

Search warrant case number: 19-mr-01054

Prosecutor: Novaline Wilson

Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Plea judge: Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar

Sentencing judge: None set

 

See stories on the case

Summary

On Aug. 30, 2019, Maroquez Clah, of Red Valley, Arizona, allegedly killed Darrell Chavez, 22, an enrolled Navajo Nation man when he lost control of his truck and rolled it on Navajo Route 13/Indian Services Route 13 near Mitten Rock, New Mexico, within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation reservation, in San Juan county. Chavez is only identified in court records by the initials D.C. and the year of birth of 1997. Clah is also an enrolled Navajo Nation member.

A federal grand jury indicted him on Nov. 25, 2019 and he was arrested on February 14, 2020, before being released a week later to a halfway house. He has since been released to his family in Red Vallely, Ariz.

On Sept. 21, 2020, he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter without a plea deal.

The case is pending.

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The incident

A search warrant filed for Clah’s truck on Sept. 4, 2019, by Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Lancy Roundy, gives a few details on the crash.

Mitten Rock, off of Navajo Route 13 (Indian Services Route 13), New Mexico. Photo by James St. John/Flickr

Clah told federal investigators, while in the hospital, he had been drinking alcohol throughout the day prior to driving from Farmington to his home in Red Valley, Arizona, in a 2007 Ford F-150 truck.

“Clah recalled John Doe being a passenger of his vehicle at some point during the drive,” Roundy wrote. “Clah admitted to drinking vodka approximately six hours prior to driving his vehicle home and remembered losing control of the vehicle while driving approximately 70 miles per hour before the vehicle rolled several times.”

According to Clah’s hospital records from his treatment after the crash, his blood-alcohol content was 0.258, over three times the legal limit of 0.08.

It is not clear how the agents obtained the medical records. The only unsealed search warrant for the case, between the time of the crash and Sept. 4, 2019, is Roundy’s.

Clah suffered a broken leg and “other injuries,” Roundy wrote.

Roundy wrote he wanted to search the truck for physical evidence of alcohol consumption, including bottles, receipts and cans, as well as take pictures of the truck.

Pretrial release

Magistrate judge denies move request during coronavirus pandemic

On April 1, federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones denied Clah’s request to move from a halfway house in Albuquerque to his parents’ home in Red Valley, filed March 23. Briones did not have a hearing and instead relied on the emergency motion filed by Clah’s attorney, Emily Carey, and the opposition filed under seal by prosecutor Novaline Wilson. However, Wilson’s filing under seal appears to be against court rules on sealing documents, which require a judge’s consent and are only supposed to be done for very good reasons.

Panoramic photo of Red Valley, Arizona, with no buildings in sight.
Red Valley, about a mile west of the New Mexico state line, 36.5850 -109.0712, Apache County, Arizona, 5/17/2014. Photo by Patrick Alexander/Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA

According to the local rules and federal court rules, documents are only supposed to be filed under seal for good reason and a record of the motion to file a document under seal is supposed to appear on the court docket, as outlined by Jeff Proctor in New Mexico In Depth.

Carey filed an appeal of Briones’ order on April 6, but no further documents or hearings have been docketed in the case.

She wrote in the initial motion that Briones, during the arraignment, said if Clah “performed well” at the halfway house, he would consider “possible modification” the conditions of his release. The current conditions restrict his travel to Bernalillo county. The minutes contain no details of what was said.

Wilson opposed Clah’s release pending trial during the arraignment, while pretrial officers suggested release, according to the minutes.

Carey wrote that Clah’s father is on dialysis and his health has recently declined and his mother, Bessie Begay, contacted her to say that his father has “developed something akin to dementia.”

Before being arrested, Clah “took on all of the household tasks and helped his mother with his father’s health care.” He also took care of his 4-year-old daughter, who is now in Begay’s custody, she wrote.

Clah’s doctors are also in Shiprock and Farmington, closer to Red Valley than to Albuquerque. If he were allowed to return to Red Valley, he could also continue his work at Yazzie Oil Field Service. Allowing him to move back in with his parents would remove him from a communal living situation and possible infection by the coronavirus, Carey wrote.

Federal pretrial services in Arizona conducted a home assessment and said it would take responsibility for Clah’s supervision, she wrote.

According to Carey’s reply to Wilson’s sealed opposition, Clah has one prior tribal conviction for drunk driving in 2018. He was sentenced to 90 days supervised probation, which he completed.

That prior DWI conviction appears to be the basis of Wilson’s opposition to Clah taking care of his elderly father, helping his mother and parenting his child. Wilson also argues, according to Carey, that the global pandemic is not a “changed circumstance.” However, because Wilson appears to have improperly sealed her opposition, it is not clear if she had any more arguments.

Carey wrote:

“At this point, concerns pertaining to COVID-19 and the risk of communal living are not merely speculative. Moreover, even if he was required to present evidence of changed circumstances, Mr. Clah submits that he has met his burden given his exemplary conduct while on pretrial release, the deterioration in his father’s physical and mental health, the inability to access medical providers including his surgeon for urgent follow up care, and concerns for his own health and the health of his family because of COVID-19.”

Briones denied Carey’s motion because his “pattern of prior conduct” and that Carey didn’t show that there are “sufficient safeguards” to protect the community from the risk of Clah drinking and driving, if he isn’t living at the halfway house.

In Carey’s April 6 appeal, she wrote that Clah’s father has repeatedly fallen, following his descent in what appears to be dementia, and has been admitted to the hospital on suspicion of internal bleeding. Begay cannot stay with her husband at the hospital because of the risk of the coronavirus.

Clah would not have access to a car while living with his parents. His mother has a vehicle, but it’s provided by her work, she wrote.

Carey wrote:

“Mr. Clah’s physical movements are restricted by his own physical injuries for which he requires ongoing treatment. Moreover, at present, the entire Navajo Nation has imposed a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., which is enforced by law enforcement personnel issuing citations and roadblocks. However, should the Court be concerned with Mr. Clah’s movement, he would be willing to submit to electronic monitoring under home detention or any other condition the court deems appropriate.”

Clah’s pretrial officer is still supports his request to move back to Red Valley, she wrote.

Whenever Clah speaks to his daughter on the phone, “she often cries and begs for him,” Carey wrote. “He is extremely concerned about the effect this separation is having on her, and worried about the burden his absence is putting on his mother.”

Begay also wrote a letter to the court.

District judge releases Clah to Arizona

Federal District Court Judge Kea Riggs granted Maroquez Clah’s appeal on April 20, 2020, and ordered him released.

In her order releasing Clah, Riggs wrote his medical and physical condition weighed toward his release, especially because he needed surgery on his leg, which is infected and that the halfway house stated they could not take care of his medical needs after he is released from the hospital.

She also found that, contrary to Briones’ opinion, the Clah has no access to a vehicle, the only way he poses a danger to the community.

“Given that Defendant has a history of compliance with conditions of release or probation, and lacks access to a vehicle, the Court agrees with Pretrial Services’ recommendation and concludes that these conditions will reasonably assure the safety of the community,” Riggs wrote.

Plea

On Sept. 21, 2020, Clah pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to involuntary manslaughter. He faces a maximum sentence of eight years.

No sentencing date has been set.

 

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