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EVENTS, THOUGHTS AND UPDATES FROM THE 13th JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE



On this day six years ago - which was Memorial Day, Officer Gregg "Nigel" Benner, an Air Force veteran, was killed in the line of duty. We are re-posting this Blog in his memory.

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Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. I want to dedicate this blog to the memory of a local hero who was executed in the streets of Rio Rancho on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. Officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner was a veteran. He served his country honorably as a member of the United States Air Force, including several tours overseas. After being discharged, he continued his life of public service by joining the Rio Rancho Police Department.


Officer Benner was a beloved family man and proud member of his community. His selfless service to others was remarkable to all those who knew him. It is ironic that on Memorial Day, his family, friends, and loved ones remember and honor him — not for being killed by a foreign enemy while serving and protecting our country—they will remember him on this day as being gunned down by a career criminal, while serving and protecting our community.


The person who murdered Officer Benner (I will not publish his name to give him any more notoriety) was a career criminal when he entered Rio Rancho on that fateful day to continue a crime spree of armed robberies that had begun in Albuquerque and continued in Albuquerque after he left Officer Benner to bleed to death in the street. The tragedy of Officer Benner’s murder is amplified by the fact that his killer should never have been on the streets in the first place. He had already been incarcerated in the New Mexico State Penitentiary twice. He was on probation. Officer Benner’s murder sparked an outcry around the state and many called for stricter laws and sentences for repeat violent offenders. While some progress has been made in this regard, we still see far too many repeat violent offenders who migrate from larger communities like Albuquerque to the smaller communities in Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia Counties to commit atrocities against our citizens. Armed with the statistics of the alarming increase in violent crimes in our district, I will fight in the legislature to get a bigger slice of the resource pie, by dispelling the myth that our “rural” district doesn’t need as many crime fighting resources as the bigger metropolitan areas like Albuquerque.


While I am an advocate for diversion programs to assist first time non-violent offenders who wish to leave the criminal path and return to productive law abiding citizens, I have no sympathy for those who have been given multiple opportunities to correct their life styles and refuse to do so, ultimately harming and even destroying innocent lives. During the course of leading the prosecution team for Officer Benner’s killer, I became acutely aware of how profoundly the murder of a police officer affects the entire community. I have implemented a no-plea bargain policy for crimes of violence committed against peace officers during the course of their duties. My policy is to treat these crimes as if they were enumerated crimes, giving the harmed officers all of the rights afforded to other victims of crime in New Mexico. This means that none of these cases are dismissed or pled to lesser charges without consulting with the affected officer.


Additionally, as part of my monthly meeting with local law enforcement agency chiefs and supervisors, we developed a Chronic Offender Task Force wherein the police officers, probation and parole officers, and prosecutors collaborate to identify the worst of the worst in Sandoval County and coordinate strategies to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute these individuals in a concentrated effort to get them off of our streets for good. This will be implemented in all three counties once I am elected.


As your District Attorney, I will always stand behind the men and women who risk their lives every day for our safety. That is not to say I will rubber stamp everything they do. I will demand high quality and professional policing and investigation to ensure the best possible prosecution outcome. But, make no mistake. If anyone intentionally harms a police officer in the line of duty, I will not hesitate to prosecute to the full extent of the law. Imagine, if someone is willing to shoot and kill an armed police officer in broad daylight, they will not hesitate to kill any one of us or our family. Repeat violent offenders will not find a safe haven in Cibola, Sandoval, or Valencia County under my administration.



Rest In Peace with the Angels Nigel!



“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:13]

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Employees of the 13th Judicial Attorney's Office participated in a month long raffle event for National Crime Victims' Week. Employees donated gift cards and non perishable food items for raffle tickets to win prizes. Over $400 dollars worth of gift cards were collected and are being donated to domestic violence emergency shelters in our district so that the shelters can purchase what is really needed. Several hundred pounds of non perishable food items were gathered as a part of the raffle and were donated to a number of families and organizations in need.


Employee winners of the raffle won, a day off, $100 in cash and a piece of custom silver jewelry made by one of our Deputy District Attorneys.

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Updated: Apr 27


Prosecutors have a great deal of discretion. The decisions we make can change a person’s life, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. People are not perfect and they make mistakes. The duty of the prosecutor is to do justice. But what does that mean? Well certainly it can mean different things to different people but I believe keeping in mind these two important facts provide the best chance of fulfilling this sacred duty of a prosecutor. It might surprise some to know that prosecutors are responsible for protecting the rights of the accused as well as the victims. The office of the District Attorney does not investigate crimes. Law enforcement agencies investigate crimes and sometimes make arrests with charges in the form of a criminal complaint. It is at this point that the District Attorney’s office gets involved. It is imperative that each case brought to the District Attorney is evaluated on its own merit. It is the sole discretion of the District Attorney whether to move forward with prosecution. This discretion must be exercised carefully and wisely. During my 20 plus years as a prosecutor, I have evaluated literally thousands of cases. I rejected a large percentage of those cases for prosecution. Many factors are considered when deciding whether or not to prosecute a case. Of course, the conduct must be criminal as violating one of our statutes. Other factors are the age of the accused, the severity of the crime, the criminal history or lack thereof, the wishes of the family and victims, the impact on the community, underlying issues such as addiction, lack of job skills, and ability and willingness to be rehabilitated. This is a non exhaustive list of some of the things a prosecutor should consider when evaluating a case. These decisions are not always easy—nor should they be. But only with years of experience does a prosecutor develop the ability to make the tough calls of when and if and how to prosecute any given case. Factors which should NEVER play a part in the evaluation are race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation of the accused or the victim. Likewise, if the rights of the accused have been violated during the course of the apprehension or investigation by law enforcement—whether intentionally or not—the District Attorney should consider very carefully whether or not to prosecute. More importantly, if such instances occur, there must be an open and frank discussion with the leadership of the law enforcement agency to ensure all parties understand what went wrong and to take corrective steps to prevent such incidents in the future. This requires an established relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with the District Attorney and law enforcement. The District Attorney does not control or supervise the police. Nonetheless, we do share a common goal of serving and protecting our community. In that regard, I will continue to work closely with the leadership in each of the law enforcement agencies throughout the district to establish and maintain a philosophy and practice that will absolutely not tolerate instances of abuse and misconduct such as what the world witnessed in Minneapolis with the killing of Mr. Floyd. All of us—starting with me, as your District Attorney, the Chiefs of Police, and the Sheriffs must stand together in unity to condemn any acts of abuse or misconduct by police or prosecutors. With one voice we will declare “Not on my watch!”



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