DA plans to refile charges against NM compound suspects | KOB 4

DA plans to refile charges against NM compound suspects

Ryan Laughlin, Patrick Hayes
August 30, 2018 11:43 AM

TAOS COUNTY, N.M. - Late Wednesday, Eighth Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos said he plans on refiling charges against the five suspects who were arrested at a compound in northern New Mexico.


All five had the original child abuse charges dropped Wednesday afternoon. 

District Judge Emilio Chavez made the decision in the first hearing, dropping the charges against Lucas Morten, Hujrah Wahhaj, and Subhannah Wahhaj, saying the prosecution failed to hold a preliminary hearing to prove probable cause within ten days of their first court appearance.

About an hour later, Judge Jeff McElroy came to the same decision regarding Siraj Wahhaj and Jany Leveille.

Both judges blamed state prosecutors and District Attorney Donald Gallegos for failing to follow New Mexico law, which states defendants are entitled to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of an arrest. 

“I’m just going to say once again that I am very disappointed," said Judge McElroy. "The court is being caught between very public, very shocking information and a complete failure to follow proper procedures prosecuting the case.”

Prosecutors tried explaining to the judge that they didn't hold a preliminary hearing because they expected the defendants to be released from jail. If that would have happened, prosecutors would have had a total of 60 days to hold a preliminary hearing.

“What I would argue is that every day we expected them to be released from custody because they’re on an unsecured bond,” said one of the prosecutors.

The suspects were not released because they couldn't find housing in Taos County, one of the conditions of release. 

Minutes after Wahhaj and Leveille had the original 11 child abuse charges dropped, they had a 'first appearance' for new charges, of first-degree child abuse resulting in death and second-degree felony conspiracy to commit child abuse.

They did not enter a plea.

Prosecutors filed a motion to keep Wahhaj and Leveille in jail until trial. They will remain locked up until at least September 4, when the motion will be heard in court. At that time, a judge can set conditions of release or grant the motion to keep the suspects in custody. A preliminary hearing for the pair is scheduled for September 7.

Wahhaj is accused of abducting his son Abdul Ghani Wahhaj from Georgia. The 3-year-old boy's remains were found at the compound days after the raid.


Ryan Laughlin, Patrick Hayes

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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