Campaign managers will do everything in their power to keep an incumbent away from the public and the press because there's little chance of improving their situation and a huge potential for a fatal mistake.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg finds herself in that exact situation. According to our Eyes, the incumbent DA is playing defense and has just recently canceled a scheduled debate with challenger Lisa Torraco. The debate was to be taped today at PBS affiliate KNME TV (channel 5).
Brandenburg's cancellation marks the second time the DA has backed out of a debate with challenger Torraco. The first time Brandenburg didn't even bother to call ahead she simply failed to show up.
Meanwhile, our Eyes tell us that the District Attorney is making the local small meeting circuit where she can talk to groups, look official, and never be challenged. According to our Eyes, DA Brandenburg loves to tout her plea-bargaining program where offenders are almost instantaneously offered a plea. The DA claims that some 60% of these plea offers are turned down, but that means 40% are accepted.
Brandenburg's rational is that by offering an early plea she is reducing the burden on an already overburdened court system - which may be true. But her primary function as DA is not to reduce the burden on the courts but to make sure that criminals are prosecuted for their crimes.
We have always maintained that jail time isn't about punishment or rehabilitation - it's about keeping criminals who would victimize the innocent out of society. Prison gives a kind of absolute protection for the rest of us. Qui Feng Chen found out the hard way what can happen if criminals are allowed to run loose.
In July, Ms. Chen was allegedly killed by Donte Power, who our Eyes tell us had been arrested May 19th for DWI and cocaine possession. We wonder whether a quick plea ultimately cost Ms. Chen her life.
What we're talking about here is judgment. A district attorney has a tremendous amount of discretion when it comes to prosecution. If a DA feels that there's not a strong case, then it will never see a grand jury. In our opinion, District Attorney Brandenburg has a number of questions to answer about cases that she either chose to prosecute or chose not to.
So you see, the DA has a number of questions to answer - questions that are most properly asked in public and during an election. However, Brandenburg has decided to play defense and avoid uncomfortable questions. Since Albuquerque's media doesn't seem particularly interested there's little chance that she'll be required to answer any of them.
I. Ms. Brandenburg pursued mentally retarded Robert Gonzalez for three years despite over 60 scientific tests that failed to link him to the crime scene and two APD officers disputing parts of Gonzalez' "confession" - a confession that was thrown out by the court. Ultimately, the CODIS system found a DNA match to Mexican national Israel Diaz and Gonzalez was released after serving 3 years in jail (Subscription).
II. In the Elton John Richard case, DA Brandenburg insisted on prosecuting a decorated Marine for attempting to detain Daniel Romero - a convicted felon - after Romero attempted to steal Richard's Bronco. Unfortunately, Romero died in the altercation when he attempted to attack Richard one too many times. Our first post on the story was called Choices. We maintained that Romero chose to attempt to steal Richard's, he chose to flee justice, he chose to attack Richard that last fatal time, and Brandenburg chose to prosecute Richard to the fullest extent of the law regardless of the circumstances.
III. Initially, the DA's office chose not to pursue charges against former officer Ben Kirby for his role in the Jason Daskalos DWI paddy wagon escape attempt. A year later, just after Kirby filed suit to get his job back the DA's office indicts the dismissed officer. No matter how you slice it Brandenburg did the City of Albuquerque a favor (and perhaps The Almighty Alcalde) by indicting Kirby (read it here). It's hard to sue to get your law enforcement job back when under indictment.
IV. DWI and Domestic violence charges are the only misdemeanor offences prosecuted by the DA's office. Our Eyes tell us that DWI cases - even aggravated DWI cases - are routinely dismissed because the DA's office fails to prosecute the offenders within the required 6 months.
V. The case of Dr. Michael Flax whose DWI arrest was plead down to careless driving even though he'd been involved in an accident and blown a .08/.07 after failing a field sobriety test. Dr. Flax it turns out was also Kari Brandenburg's doctor (read it here).