Jeff Knox published an article in WND about the Judge ordering a new trial in the Reese case.
A judge has ruled that, after a year and a half behind bars, Rick and Ryin Reese could be released on bail. And he followed up that order with a decision that the Reeses’ original trial was tainted and that a new trial should be granted.
In his order, Judge Robert Brack stated: “Regardless of the reason why the warnings went unheeded (or, more darkly, were ignored), there is no doubt that the prosecution, intentionally or negligently, suppressed the evidence.”
The judge then concluded by stating: “Viewing the significance of the suppressed evidence in relation to the record as a whole… the court concludes that the defendants’ Motion for New Trial should be granted.”
This decision was based on revelations that prosecutors improperly withheld information from Reese defense attorneys regarding an ongoing investigation into corruption among law enforcement officers in southern New Mexico, including a sheriff’s deputy who was an important player in the federal investigation and a witness in the Reese’s prosecution.
That information came out in a motion for a new trial filed last December, culminating in a hearing on the matter earlier this week. In that hearing, FBI agents and an Assistant U.S. Attorney testified that Det. Alan Batts of the Luna County Sheriff’s Department has been under investigation for corruption for almost 10 years and that this information was recognized as potentially impacting the Reese case. They further testified that Batts had indicated that he knew he was under investigation and therefore might have had a motive for currying favor with prosecutors with his testimony against the Reeses.
The judge noted that Batts had testified that Teri Reese had indicated to him that she knew that a gun sold to a particular purchaser had turned up in Mexico, but in her testimony, Mrs. Reese had denied such knowledge. Prosecutors had used this conflicting testimony to cast doubt on Mrs. Reese’s veracity, and returned to the conflicting statements several times during the trial, specifically pointing out that Batts had no reason to lie. Had the defense known about the ongoing corruption investigation of Batts, they could have shown that he did indeed have a motive to lie and the knowledge of this motive might have influenced the jury in the defense’s favor.
On the matter of pre-sentencing release, the judge declared that the government had failed to meet their burden of proving that release of Rick and Ryin Reese represented a significant risk of flight or a danger to the community. He ordered that the pair be released on $10,000 bond each, and that they be limited in their travel with electronic ankle monitors.
The family is now scrambling to come up with the necessary cash to secure the pair’s release.
The saga of the Reese family began back in August of 2011 when agents of Homeland Security Investigations, a new and growing federal police force, descended on the home and gun shop of Rick and Teri Reese and their two sons Ryin, 24, and Remington, 19. Assisted by forces from multiple agencies, HSI swept onto the Reese’s 85-acre homestead outside Deming, N.M., with helicopters, armored vehicles, and dozens of police cars as the epic climax to a months-long investigation and sting operation.
The military-style raid was all for show, though, because agents knew the Reeses were not there. The four family members had been arrested without incident in Las Cruces a short time earlier by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. As a ruse, ATF had asked the family to come to their Las Cruces office to discuss some paperwork issues.
Agents searched the Reeses’ home and nearby gun shop, cataloging all of the firearms on the premises and hauling them away in plastic 50-gallon drums. They also confiscated nearly two million rounds of ammunition from a basement storage room, and gold, jewelry, coins, and cash, along with Rick’s personal gun collection from the family’s home safe.
Agents also took dozens of empty gun safes on display in the store and several vehicles from the property. All told, agents seized more than a half-million dollars’ worth of personal property as well as something in the neighborhood of $2 million worth of inventory from the store – inventory which has significantly increased in value over recent weeks. They also seized the family’s bank accounts and investment holdings.
Terri Reese was granted bail in March of 2012 after being jailed for over six months. Rick, Ryin, and Remington were held through the July 2012 trial where Remington was acquitted of all charges and subsequently released, while Rick and Terri were each convicted of one count of lying on firearm purchase forms, and Ryin was convicted of two counts of the same charge. The family was cleared on 24 other charges. Rick and Ryin have remained in jail awaiting sentencing, bringing their total jail time so far to almost 18 months (exactly 522 days).
The Firearms Coalition is assisting in efforts to raise money for Rick and Ryin’s bail and other legal expenses. Direct contributions can be sent to:
The Reese Defense Fund
Attn: Patricia Arias
First Savings Bank
520 South Gold
Deming, New Mexico 88030
Or donations can be made by credit card through the Firearms Coalition website at www.FirearmsCoalition.org. Click on the “Donate” button in the left side-bar and be sure to include a note in the “Special Instructions to Seller” field mentioning that the contribution is for the Reeses.
This battle isn’t over by a long shot. Along with the cost of a new trial, the government is moving forward with forfeiture proceedings to try and keep all of the money and property they have seized from the family. We’ll keep you posted as the case proceeds.
This week the Reese family continues to wait for Rick and Ryin to be released from jail pursuant to Judge Brack’s Memorandum Opinion and Order last week granting a new trial. Underscoring the decision are allegations that Luna County Sheriff Deputy Alan Batts may have had incentive to lie under oath.
Rick and Terri Reese and their two sons, Ryin and Remington Reese were arrested in August 2011. They were charged with 30 counts of criminal activity related to making false statements in connection with the sale of firearms, international weapons trafficking related to smuggling weapons to the Mexican cartel, conspiracy, and money laundering.
After the prosecution concluded presenting the evidence against the Reeses during trial, defense attorneys Robert Gorence, Jason Bowles, Bernadette Sedillo, Brad Hall and Pete Dominici Jr. filed motions to dismiss all of the charges, including those related to conspiracy to launder money. The jury was not present in the courtroom while the motion was being argued. Judge Brack granted part of the motion and dismissed the money laundering charges citing insufficient evidence, no agreement and that no evidence had been presented.
The trial continued with the defense presenting their side of the evidence to the jury. This eventually led to the Reeses beging found not guilty on 24 of the remaining 28 charges. The not guilty verdicts involved the most serious of the charges in terms of sentencing guidelines. The youngest son, Remington Reese, was found not guilty on all counts.
Coincidentally, the day after Judge Brack granted the motion for new trial on February 1, 2013, the New York Times published a timely article titled, Why Police Officers Lie Under Oath. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0
The author of the New York Times article, Michelle Alexander, points out:
As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.” But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie.
One of the points made by the Reese defense team over and over was that the various law enforcement agencies involved had an incentive to make the case against the Reese family. The problem for the Reese family is they have substantial assets worth seizing. They have an 85 acre property with three buildings (two residential and one business) in Luna County, property up in the mountains in the Hillsborough, NM area, savings, numerous vehicles, substantial amounts of valuable inventory in the two stores (Deming, NM and Las Cruces, NM), in addition to a lot of valuable personal property, including family heirloom jewelry.
They had lots of weapons, lots of ammunition, expensive scopes, (personal and store inventory), cash, and gold and silver. These kind of assets would have been a dream come true for any common burglar.
While a common burglar can not easily steal real property, substantial real property would certainly be a target during asset forfeiture proceedings, as it is in this case.
During trial, the Reese defense team solicited information from each of the law enforcement agencies involved that the agency they represent intends to participate in splitting up the Reese assets. The Reese assets seized are still subject to Civil Forfeiture proceedings and may wind up being forfeited in the future depending on the outcome of the that case. This case has not been dropped by the US Attorney’s Office. The New York Times article pointed to one of the government incentive programs to seize assets that makes this possible:
In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well.
In last week’s explosive hearing that resulted in a new trial, the Judge and the public heard testimony from a supervising Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) and two FBI agents about Deputy Alan Batts who was a key witness in the Reese trial. They testified under oath that pursuant to allegations made, Deputy Batts was and/or is under investigation for allegations relating to extorting assets from a drug dealer, assisting Mexican drug cartels, and assisting in smuggling illegal aliens. They testified under oath Alan Batts may have known he was under investigation. According to the defense, this was the alleged motive for Alan Batts to tailor his testimony to the needs of the prosecution in order to obtain a guilty verdict against the Reeses.
In part, the focus of the questioning of these witnesses was who in the US Attorney’s office knew about the problems surrounding the ability to use Deputy Batts as a witness and when they knew it. At issue was whether or not the trial prosecutors in the Reese case were informed by their supervisors who did have knowledge not to use Deputy Batts as a witness either before or during trial. AUSA Richard Williams swore under oath that he didn’t know that Alan Batts had testified in the Reese trial until after the fact. AUSA Maria Armijo was the lead prosecutor in the Reese trial. Judge Brack emphasized the following on the bottom of page 6 of his February 1st opinion:
It bears noting that Ms. Armijo, lead trial counsel herein, was also Branch Chief of the Las Cruces United States Attorney’s Office from 2005 to 2008, a critical period in the Batts investigation.
The New York Times article makes this point:
Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.
The question that should now be raised is this problem limited to law enforcement, or is it starting to become systemic and involve the US Attorney’s Office? Does the local US Attorney’s office have a problem acknowledging lies of law enforcement and possibly colleagues?
A number of unresolved issues related to testimony came out during trial. For example, Special Agent Joshua Frye (phonetic – name not spelled during trial) testified he has been with Homeland Security Investigations (H.S.I.) since 2004 and assigned in El Paso, TX in asset forfeiture from criminal cases involving money laundering, and other criminal activity. As previously reported, http://www.lunatpp.org/reese-trial-the-search-warrant-and-money-laundering-conspiracy-charges/ during trial the agent supervising the asset forfeiture proceedings was questioned extensively.
S/A Frye testified again he had no knowledge of any holes knocked in walls. He claims he has no knowledge of clothes being ripped out of closets and trashed in the center of the room, and claims he has no knowledge of the entire property being ransacked. And he admitted that even though they had the keys to the property, they chose to cut the place open with a torch which resulted in damaging some of the business records of the business. The business records, located right next to ammunition, were damaged because they caught on fire with the torch and had to put out with halodon and water from the sprinkler system. S/A Frye admitted all this occurred because they skipped using the keys that had been provided to them.
S/A Frye admitted that as a result of the seizure the ATF will get a portion of the value of everything seized from New Deal and the Reeses upon conviction.
S/A Frye admitted that he personally stands to get a bonus based on the quantity of the value of items seized.
S/A Frye admitted that agents get bonuses on big cases.
S/A Frye admitted that he has received bonuses in the past.
Numerous volunteers participated for weeks in the fall of 2012 in cleaning up the mess left in buildings that were ransacked during the search warrant and over the property. Those details have also been publicly posted on this website.
One reader of this website recently asked who had the incentive to lie during that fateful day when Terri Reese pointed to a federally required form to report purchasers of multiple handguns in a single purchase and told Deputy Alan Batts that he needed to look into one particular one. Terri Reese testified that she became suspicious of that buyer and reported it to law enforcement. Other agents testified that this is what started the whole case against the Reese family.
Who really had motive to lie?
As of last night, Rick and Ryin remain in jail. Their release was delayed becuase the ankle monitors they are required to wear were sent to the wrong destination. Terri is hopeful that they will send the ankle monitors via overnight mail to Las Cruces.
Rick’s paperwork for release has been completed, however, Ryin’s paperwork is still being processed.
Terri maintains faith the probation office will have everything finalized today.
Terri asked everyone to, “Please continue to keep the prayers coming.”
The Reese family has released the following statement:
“As you know Rick and Ry are to be released on bond this week. We are hoping that the ankle monitors are in on Monday so they will be home.
“We would all like to thank you for the help, prayers and many blessings that you have sent our way in this our time of need. We could not have endured this political crucifiction without the help you have given. True friends such as you are the roadwork to our Lords Blessings.
“We have been granted a new trial and are confident that our Lord will see us through.
“We do now have a land line that we can be reached on. If we are not here please leave a message as the health of both our newly acquired men needs to be taken care of and we will be in an out to doctors appointments.
“Thanks again and God Bless you,
“Rick, Ter, Ry and Rem”
This afternoon Judge Brack granted the Rick, Terri and Ryin Reese a new trial.
Judge Brack stated in his opinion that the government either intentionally or negligently suppressed evidence that could easily have altered the outcome of the trial.
The judges order can be read here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/123390298/Reese-Order
For a more complete story, see David Codrea’s article: http://www.examiner.com/article/court-grants-new-trial-to-new-mexico-gun-dealer-family
as well as the story published in the Las Cruces Sun: http://www.examiner.com/article/court-grants-new-trial-to-new-mexico-gun-dealer-family
We all pray that they family is able to raise the money to post bond, so they can finally be reunited after this horrible ordeal.
One of the most important things necessary for peace of mind and security of residents is for them to have confidence in their local, state and federal government officials and employees, and most importantly confidence in the honesty and integrity of their law enforcement officials.
That confidence was shattered during the last two proceedings in the Reese hearing regarding the Motion for New Trial, the one in December and the one this past Monday. Although the public who had attended the December hearing already knew the name and the investigating agency involved, the nature of the allegations was a complete mystery.
During Monday’s proceedings the public watched the US Attorney, Ken Gonzalez, explain to the judge that the public shouldn’t be present. Apparently we shouldn’t know that a ten year long investigation into law enforcement corruption has been going on – without arrests.
The public listened to hours of testimony from a supervisor in the US Attorney’s Office, AUSA Richard Williams, explain how he knew about the corruption investigation that started in 2002 involving law enforcement officers in Luna County that is still ongoing. The public listened to him admit under oath to contents of the sealed file as to the kinds of serious allegations that have been made against Deputy Alan Batts and investigated over a number of years, starting in 2004. We listened to him explain how the file wasn’t assigned to anybody in the US Attorneys office for two years, coincidentally during the same years of the Reese investigation.
We listened to two FBI agents explain the types of allegations that they have been investigating with regards to Deputy Alan Batts, and others. We heard one FBI agent express his concerns that Alan Batts had been assigned to the drug task force last year and how he reminded AUSA Williams of the nature of these concerns.
We listened to AUSA Williams give one version of how and when he knew that Alan Batts had testified in the Reese case. We listened to a bit of a different version from one of the FBI agents.
We had previously heard the explanation that the reason the US Attorney’s office in Las Cruces didn’t follow the law and disclose the information is because the FBI didn’t want it disclosed.
We listened to Deputy Batts give a completely different version of events from what the FBI agents stated.
We read the newspaper account that completely ignored that the focus of the bulk of the hearing was actually about the years of investigation into allegations against Deputy Batts and who knew what when related to that. The newspaper account didn’t mention the other three persons who testified were the AUSA handling the case, and two FBI agents investigating the case.
We read the newspaper account pointing the finger at the defense attorneys and the accusation, “Officials with the Luna County Sheriff’s Office say one of their own was thrown under the bus during the Monday proceeding in which attorneys for the Reese family argued for a new trial”. The headline made it clear enough the Sheriff was pointing the finger at the defense attorneys.
What was omitted from all of this was the fact that it was actually the Assistant US Attorney’s office in Las Cruces that threw Deputy Batts under the bus and publicly tarnished his name. In fairness, the reporter, Matt Robinson, was not present at the hearing and might not have known who was making the allegations against Deputy Batts. His colleague in Las Cruces didn’t mention that part in his article. Deputy Batts was not allowed to be in the courtroom while the AUSA and the FBI testified under oath about the length of and nature of the investigation involving him.
Had the US Attorney’s office revealed the information about Deputy Batts when they should have, it is possible that the entire matter could have been handled privately. Instead, Deputy Batts has been smeared by the government. Instead, it has cost the Reese family enormous amount of legal fees. Instead, the public confidence in law enforcement has been shattered.
The Reese case was a highly publicized case involving a large number of law enforcement officers from multiple organizations. The Reeses had assets seized from them. The government knew early on some of these assets were the same type of assets allegedly targeted in the past by alleged corrupt officers in other cases. (Those assets included weapons.) It would only have taken a single phone call at the time of the arrests to find out which officers were involved in the search and seizure process to determine if any of the officers suspected of corruption were present or involved in any way in the case. Somebody in the US Attorney’s office dropped the ball.
Instead of disclosing the conflict at the earliest possible time, the US Attorney’s office instead embarked on a journey that defense attorneys claim violated the Reese’s civil rights. Those actions later resulted in Deputy Alan Batts being publicly thrown under the bus by the US Attorney’s office.
What was the motivation behind the US Attorney’s office not revealing the information? Was it just to win the Reese case? Was there some other motivation behind the scenes?
Was the US Attorney’s office hoping they could keep the problem a secret until after the Reese’s were sentenced and counting on a prayer and a hope that nobody found out? Is this the reason why the US Attorney’s office delayed giving the pre-sentencing staff the copies of the trial transcripts? [Source as reported before: one of the pre-sentencing officers on the scene during the second search of the Reese property.]
Almost two month after the Reeses were found guilty, the then chief of the criminal division, Paula Burnett, had to step down because her husband was indicted for leaking information to one of the defendants in the Columbus Gun Smuggling case. AUSA James Tierney was appointed to replace her. It was James Tierney who finally complied with the rules of discovery and brought forth the information that should have been disclosed when Paula Burnett was the chief of the criminal division.
It was the US Attorneys office that has even put Judge Robert Brack in an extremely awkward position.
Deputy Batts has not been charged with a crime. There is no way to know if the outrageous allegations revealed in court this week were just unfounded allegations. The FBI agents revealed they were made by multiple persons reporting multiple allegations to the FBI. Did somebody have an axe to grind against Deputy Batts? There is no way to know if the government simply was unable to obtained enough probable cause to indict him. We do know the FBI agents and the AUSA stated the allegations were credible. That isn’t enough to indict someone.
Of course, the government certainly acted quickly based on a not credible criminal in the Reese case.
The Reese’s were indicted by public opinion based on incomplete evidence and one-sided reporting in the newspaper long before they ever had a chance to get to trial. At least the Reeses knew they had been arrested.
Deputy Alan Batts finds himself in a most unusual position. He’s smeared in the courtroom without so much as a how-do-you-do, more less the decency of an arrest if he’s accused of something. Does he want to blame the messenger (the Reese attorney via the legal proceedings), or the actual cause of his current predicament – the decision making process at US Attorney’s Office?
In fact, even though it has been publicly disclosed by the US Attorneys Office that he was under investigation for years, Deputy Alan Batts has not been charged with any crime. He is innocent until such time comes along that he faces charges (if ever) and is convicted.
Meanwhile, the real collateral damage in this matter is the residents of Luna County. The revelations that came out of the proceedings are that there are “others” in law enforcement being investigated. It is not known which departments or agencies are involved. This destroys peace of mind and security of residents and confidence in the honesty and integrity of their law enforcement officials at the city, county, state and federal levels.
To the truly honest law enforcements officers out there. You know who the bad apples are. Do something about it. It is in everyone’s best interest, for your safety and ours, to get rid of the bad apples. Your safety depends on the public having confidence in you. Your safety depends on your fellow officers being honest and not setting you up for a fall if you don’t yield to corruption. Our safety depends on having confidence that the officer who answers the 911 call isn’t corrupt.
If you don’t trust the local US Attorneys office, try calling James Tierney, the Chief of the Criminal Division. He seemed like one of the good guys. Make it a priority.
Corruption in law enforcement is one of the top three priorities in the US Attorneys office. Make it your priority.
Breaking News - Rick and Ryin Reese are being released on bond after being in prison for 18 months.
Information known so far includes:
- $10,000 bond each
- They will have ankle monitoring bracelets
- They will be allowed to go to church
- Arrangements for other off property trips can be made with the probation office
There is no word yet on whether the judge has decided in favor of or against a new trial. As soon as that decision is known it will be posted.
They will not be able to be released unless they can raise the cash bond amounts. Marj Stewart has informed there currently is not enough money in the defense fund to secure their release.
Please help the Reese family raise the necessary funds so they can be released. No contribution is too small.REESE DEFENSE FUND, ATTENTION Patricia Arias, First Savings Bank 520 South Gold Deming, NM 88030
I extend my personal thanks to the attorneys who have been working tirelessly for the past few months. I know they have been up at the wee hours of the mornings and late nights working on this case.
Of course, they need to be paid, too. There have been a lot of expenses involved in the case since the end of the trial.
For those of you who live in Luna County who can provide any financial assistance, please go to the bank tomorrow or Friday, to help speed up the process for their release.
Terri Reese understandably is very emotional and extremely happy right now. She is also swamped with phone calls. She asked me to express her deep gratitude to everyone who has stood by the family throughout this ordeal.
Matt Robinson interviewed Deputy Alan Batts.
Luna County Sheriff questions Reese defense tactics
Alan Batts speaks out
By Matt Robinson, Headlight Staff
Posted: 01/29/2013 04:34:35 PM MST
Officials with the Luna County Sheriff’s Office say one of their own was thrown under the bus during the Monday proceeding in which attorneys for the Reese family argued for a new trial.
On Monday, Albuquerque defense attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence argued that a witness in the Reese family trial, LCSO investigator Alan Batts, knew he was under investigation by the FBI for corruption when he assisted agents with the Reese investigation. Batts had been called in to testify in the Monday hearing held in Las Cruces in which the defense filed a motion for a new trial, on the grounds that federal prosecutors allegedly violated their clients’ rights to due process.
But on Tuesday, Batts responded, saying he has never been aware of any investigation into him nor his work at the LCSO.
Batts said he did not know he had been under investigation 10 years ago and denied knowing anything about subpoenas issued for bank and phone records. Sheriff Raymond Cobos also denied any knowledge of such an investigation.
Batts further added Tuesday that he was not involved in the investigation into the Reese family after he initially sent reports of suspicious buying at New Deal Shooting Sports – the gun store operated by the Reese family – to federal authorities.
“I never knew I was under investigation. I had no clue,” Batts said. “Don’t you think if I would have violated a law 10 years ago, the FBI would have come to the sheriff and said, ‘We’ve got this on an employee?’”
He explained that his only involvement in what would become the Reese case came before the 2011 raid on the family property. He said he testified during the original trial, held in 2012, that Terri Reese had contacted him to pick up documents detailing the sale of multiple handguns to a single buyer, as required by law.
“While I am there, she makes reference, you need to look into this one (form) and hands me one,” he said. The multi purchase form was for Penny Torres, a straw purchaser in the Reese case who purchased AK-47 type rifles and handgun variants.
Batts said that Terri Reese told him she had been contacted with information that a gun purchased at New Deal had been found in Mexico. Batts then passed that information on to federal authorities. He says that was the end of his involvement with what would later become the Reese case.
“The only thing that I had to do was due diligence; what’s expected of me,” he added. “That was the extent of my involvement.”
The lawman of 25 years says he was disappointed to see accusations of him being involved with corruption reported in the media, adding that he has never broken the law, never been reprimanded on the job and that anyone who knows him knows he is an honest man and cop.
“I have made sacrifices for this job. My family has made sacrifices for this job,” he said. “I wouldn’t tarnish my name. I wouldn’t tarnish my family.”
Sheriff Cobos was also surprised to hear of the allegations, but said the allegations do not diminish his confidence in Batts.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack, based in Las Cruces, is currently deciding if the Reese family will get a new trial.
Matt Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer needed to coordinate a local rally on February 23, 2013 to locally support the nationwide “.223 RALLY” being organized on the same day in support of the 2nd Amendment.
David Codrea has published another great article:
Other articles in the local papers include: