Updated: January 05, 2021 06:26 PM
Created: January 05, 2021 07:54 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sean Sunderland, one of the protesters arrested during the toppling of the Santa Fe obelisk on Indigenous Peoples' Day, had his charges dismissed by a judge last week.
Judge Donita Sena dropped the charges after the arresting Santa Fe Police Department officer failed to appear for the hearing. Sunderland was being charged for criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.
Sunderland, 24, and Dylan Wrobel, 27, were the first two protesters arrested on the day the monument was knocked down in the heart of Santa Fe Plaza. They were both arrested on the day of the demonstration.
The charges were dropped with prejudice, so the charges may not be refiled.
January 5, 2021, the Santa Fe Police Department was notified via media inquiry regarding the dismissal of this case on January 4, 2021. We learned that the dismissal was the result of the prosecuting officer’s failure to attend a Motions Hearing, which was scheduled for December 28, 2020. Upon learning of the dismissal and the reason for the dismissal, we immediately initiated our internal inquiry to determine why the officer in question did not attend the Motions Hearing.
The issue at hand centers around the “Certificate of Service” for the Notice of Motions Hearing. The Magistrate Court Clerk listed on the “Certificate of Service” that Officer Jesse Campbell was served the Notice via email. In speaking with Officer Campbell, he advised that he was not served with the Notice of Motion Hearing, so he did not know that it was happening and that he needed to attend. It is established protocol for the Courts, as well as Attorneys to send any notices, subpoenas, and discovery requests directly to the Santa Fe Police Department via a standalone email dedicated solely for the receipt and service of Court and Attorney documents, at which point it is the responsibility of SFPD to complete the service to the officer, and verify that the service had been conducted.
Up to the point of this hearing, Officer Campbell had attended all of the scheduled hearings that he had been made aware of.
The Santa Police Department has reached out to the Court, to determine if and when the notice in question was sent. Deputy Chief Paul Joye spoke with the Court Manager on the afternoon of January 5, 2021, and the Court Manager advised Deputy Chief Joye based upon their internal review, it appears that the Notice of Motion Hearing in question was never sent to SFPD. As a result of his inquiry, Deputy Chief Joye is confident in his determination that the Santa Fe Police Department was never sent the Notice of Motions Hearing in question, and thus the Officer was not at fault for failing to attend the Hearing.
Deputy Chief Joye was assured by the Court Manager, that Judge Donita Sena has been advised that the Officer was never served the Notice in question, and is taking the matter into consideration. At this time, Judge Sena will make the determination if this case moves forward, and if the dismissal will be reconsidered.
In an Albuquerque Journal article published January 4, 2021 regarding this case, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is quoted as saying “the DA’s Office offered to help with the prosecution, but SFPD didn’t accept.” Deputy Chief Joye has advised that in an email to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett-Macias dated November 19, 2020, as a result of the Defense Counsel’s request for a Jury Trial and citing Rule 6-108, he formally requested for the District Attorney’s Office to take responsibility of the case. In response to this request, Chief Deputy DA Padgett-Macias assigned Assistant District Attorney Richard Wilson to provide assistance to the prosecuting Officer, at which time Mr. Wilson and Officer Campbell began corresponding and working together on this case.
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