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DA opts for closed grand jury hearings in child-sex cases

Three people accused of involvement with a group that engaged in sex with preteen girls won’t face preliminary hearings this week. Instead, the district attorney’s office has opted to conduct closed grand jury hearings in their cases.

Under New Mexico law, district attorneys have several methods to present evidence showing probable cause that people committed crimes. That can be done either by a preliminary hearing before a judge in open court or by a closed hearing before a grand jury. Once probable cause is shown, the case can go to trial.

Deputy district attorney Bryan McKay explained the district attorney’s rationale Thursday morning before Magistrate Judge Doug Miller.

“It has been determined that a grand jury would be a more appropriate procedure to avoid secondary victimization of the children in this case,” McKay said.

Officials have said they believe at least 18 preteen girls were victims of adults who operated a sex “club” at 700 E. 10th St. in Clovis.

Miller decided to raise the bail of Billy Martin, 49, accused of child abuse and criminal sexual contact with a minor under 13, from $100,000 to $1 million.

In a separate hearing, Magistrate Judge Richard Hollis decided to leave the bail of Anastacio Esquibel, 21, at $1 million. Esquibel is accused of six counts of criminal sexual penetration and six counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor under 12.

On Wednesday, Hollis decided to change the bail for Jeanette Martin, 44, Billy Martin’s wife, from an appearance bond to $10,000 cash bond. She had been free on bond, but on Wednesday was taken to the Curry County Adult Detention Center where she remained on Thursday evening.

Jeanette Martin faces only a charge of child abuse.