Criminal trial against Rio Arriba Sheriff ends in mistrial

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TIERRA AMARILLA, N.M.- The criminal trial against the sitting sheriff of Rio Arriba County ended in a mistrial Friday.

District Court Judge Kathleen McGarry declared a mistrial because the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Sheriff James Lujan is accused of interfering when Espanola Police were in a high speed chase back in 2017 and officers were in pursuit of suspect Phillip Chacon.

Prosecutors say Sheriff Lujan was friends with the suspect and wanted to help him. Court records claim he "instructed Phillip Chacon to gather his belongings and get in his patrol vehicle" to avoid arrest.

“On behalf of the sheriff, we maintain his innocence of these charges and we hope and trust that the prosecutor will take a serious look at whether taxpayer money and resources should be spent on a retrial,” said Sheriff Lujan’s attorney Jason Bowles.

The prosecution plans to retry Lujan.

“My intentions are to move for a change of venue, and regardless of this outcome retry the case. The state has always felt we were at a disadvantage being forced under the law to try this case in the county where the elected sheriff, the defendant, resides. It’s my belief based on information we have received today that we cannot get a fair trial in Rio Arriba county. We hope to try this case in a more fair venue. We continue to believe the sheriff broke the law and needs to be held accountable and will continue to fight for the citizens of Rio Arriba . We will be filing for a change of venue next week on all his cases," Andrea Reeb said.