You probably remember the arrest for DWI of undercover State Police officer John Lytle back in January (ABQ Journal - Subscription). You may also have heard that officer Lytle was found not guilty of drunken driving this June (ABQ Journal - Subscription). Unless you spend a lot of time down at Metro Court, what you won't have heard about is the story of APD Officer Dawne Roberto.
Officer Roberto was the arresting DWI officer involved in the incident, and was therefore called upon to testify for the prosecution at the bench trial of officer Lytle. As such, one of her obligations was to meet with the defense team in a pretrial meeting; most of the time these pretrial meetings are very brief and are not conducted under oath. In this case, defense attorney Sam Bregman subjected Officer Roberto to a 2 hour pretrial grilling.
After her meeting with the defense, Officer Roberto realized that she had given the defense team some inaccurate information. Realizing that this could present a problem at trial, she brought her misstatements to the attention of the DA's office and asked for their guidance on how to proceed. The DA's office knowing that this case could end up a high profile case put two of their most aggressive ADAs Jeremy Peña and Jason Greenly on the case. Their advice to Officer Roberto was simple - tell the truth - which is exactly what she did.
Judge Daniel Ramczyk subsequently found officer Lytle not guilty. It's important to remember here that not everyone accused of DWI is guilty of the offense and more importantly a finding of not guilty doesn't necessarily mean that the prosecution, the judge, or the arresting officer made a mistake. Sometimes defendants really are not guilty.
You would think that the story would end there. In this case, it didn't. You see... Our Eyes tell us that the State Police Chief was none too happy about Judge Ramczyk's finding and called APD Chief Ray Schultz to let him know about it. That's when things started to go wrong for Officer Roberto.
After the trial (and subsequent angry phone call to Chief Schultz), officer Dawne Roberto was subjected to what could only be called retribution. She was put on 2 days of administrative leave, and stuck on desk duty upon her return. Captain Ron Hetes (one of the Almighty Marty's four henchmen from Jim Villanucci fame), claimed that ADAs Jeremy Peña and Jason Greenly had indicated that she had a credibility problem with the DA's office and over at Metro Court with Judge Ramczyk.
If true, Officer Roberto would have a problem as all three are greatly respected by the department and at Metro Court. The problem is... when Peña and Greenly found out about the allegations against officer Roberto, they went straight to her attorney and denied the allegations and let him know that she had done nothing wrong at trial. Judge Ramczyk echoed the sentiment of the two ADAs and even called her in to his chambers to let her know personally.
To make matters worse, she was told that Captain Hetes was conducting his own investigation and that if he "found" anything she would be turned over to Internal Affairs. But, if she were to voluntarily transfer out of the DWI unit, everything would go away.
It's important to note that the DA's office and APD lose DWI cases all the time and officers are not (and should not be) punished for failing to convict the offenders. One high profile example is the recent case of developer Jason "Mario Andretti" Daskalos, who was found not guilty of DWI and reckless driving (ABQ Journal - Subscription). The Daskalos case hinged on the testimony of a Porsche expert; testimony that directly conflicted with the testimony of the arresting officer.
In the end, officer Roberto took the deal and asked for a transfer to the Valley Command; which was, you guessed it... denied. Despite an opening at Valley Command and despite her 8 years of service, she was sent to the Westside instead. Some of you are thinking... so what? Officers don't always get to go where they want. A true statement, but the position at the Valley Command was filled by a rookie with zero seniority.
Worse, Dawne Roberto is not only one of APD's finest - she's a single mom caring for two young children and her invalid mom. Her transfer puts her as far away from them as possible without joining the Grants police department, as her family resides in the Northeast Heights.
Unfortunately, we hear about cases like officer Roberto's all the time. APD seems to be replete with stories of petty retribution. One indication of a serious problem is that every officer with any time served seems to be lawyered up. In this case, a fine officer whose only crime was telling the truth was forced out of a job she loved because of an angry phone call. Someone has got to pay... especially if it's the wrong person.
The Piercing Truth
This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes