Updated: 06/18/2014 10:34 PM |
Created: 06/18/2014 9:32 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4
In New Mexico, when a convicted violent sexual offender strikes again, they can be eligible for a life sentence.
But since 2007, what amounts to a typo has provided a gaping loophole for dangerous criminals.
Several people have caught the loophole -- including the keen eye of someone who lives on Albuquerque's Westside.
They wrote their state lawmaker about it, and now he's fighting to change the technical error in the law that almost gave one very violent sexual predator a way to avoid life in prison.
Downtown Albuquerque near Alvarado station was Anthony Samora's stalking ground in 2008.
That's where he found a 15 year old boy, drove him out far from anyone else and did the unthinkable.
Samora was convicted of raping that teenager a couple months ago.
It was the second time Samora had been convicted of raping an underage boy--he got just three years the first time, but at his sentencing this year, he tried using a loophole to get out of life in prison.
"A constituent alerted me to the issue," state Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-ABQ) said.
Candelaria took interest in the tip about the loophole. It's a confusing one, but in its simplest form, here's what happened.
The state legislature reorganized the wording of state sentencing statutes in 2007, they mention repeat 1st degree rapes are punishable with a life sentence.
But the reorganized wording left out that it applies to second degree felony sex crimes, too.
"And so now the sentencing statute that's on the books references sections that don't exist and don't apply anymore," Candelaria said. "It really is almost a typo that was exploited in this case to try to absolve somebody of the responsibility of their actions."
On Monday, New Mexico's Supreme Court said a lower court can make the final decision on Samora's case, but Candelaria says he will introduce legislation next session to fix the language.
"I think it's a powerful example that in a state like New Mexico where our state legislators are incredibly accessible, just sending off a quick e-mail can snowball very quickly into creating some good change for the state of New Mexico," he said.
Bernalillo District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is the one who prosecuted Samora. She sent KOB this statement:
"We have received the court's ruling and plan to work with the legislature to avoid any future confusion on the issue. We strongly feel there should be no confusion as to how much time violent offenders should spend behind bars."