Lawsuit alleges judge is responsible in deadly crash

Lawsuit alleges judge is responsible in deadly crash

A New Mexico family says negligence caused the death of their loved one, and corruption has prevented justice.

QUESTA, N.M. — A New Mexico family says negligence caused the death of their loved one, and corruption has prevented justice.

The new allegations come from the family of a man hit and killed in Taos County last summer. They want justice, and they say a judge and multiple officers all played a role in the man’s death.

Michael Rael Sr. is a longtime judge in the Village of Questa. He’s not facing any charges after deputies say he crashed into the victim, Nathan Charley, killing him.

Charley was a 48-year-old Native American man, and his family is still grieving his loss.

Attorneys representing his family have filed wrongful death lawsuits. They say Judge Rael Sr. is at fault for the crash, and multiple people should be held accountable.

“It’s this entire collection of events that just has a complete cloud of corruption and cover up,” said Frances Crockett Carpenter, an attorney for Charley’s family.

KOB 4 aired new body camera video from Taos County deputies that shows the scene, which can be seen in the video above.

Rael Sr. is heard telling deputies he never saw Charley.

Deputies concluded Charley was at fault for the crash, saying he was in the road and it was dark.

But the family’s attorneys accuse Judge Rael of driving negligently.

“There’s a complete lack of understanding of how this person, Judge Rael (Sr.), did not see Nathan Charley. He’s a large person, and was wearing a bright baby blue tank top at the time he was struck,” Crockett Carpenter said.

They believe Charley was hit from behind while walking on the shoulder, and he was not in the road.

“When you look at this road, this section of road, there’s not a hill that you have to overcome. There are no blind spots. There are no trees or bushes that would block your view,” Crockett Carpenter said.

They believe Rael Sr. was using his influence as a judge. They say he admitted driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, his vehicle was not insured, and deputies should have done field sobriety tests to make sure he wasn’t under the influence.

“They just gave them – believed everything he said without doing a full investigation,” Crockett Carpenter said. “That, to the family, screams of injustice. They certainly deserve that.”

The family also believes Judge Rael does not show he’s taking Charley’s death seriously.

The family’s attorneys are also suing the town of Taos, Taos police, and specific officers for leaving Charley with nowhere to go earlier that night.

Charley’s girlfriend had called police, telling them he was very drunk, and wanted him off the property. They didn’t charge Charley with a crime, but they dropped him off at a gas station an hour before the crash.

The family’s attorneys say those officers had a duty to help and protect Charley.

“They want justice. They want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to someone else,” Crockett Carpenter said.

Charley’s family’s attorneys say he leaves behind five children.

An attorney representing Rael Sr. did not get back to KOB 4 on Friday when asked for a comment.