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?