Dixon, Hartley case resolved
After almost three years of court wrangling, Portales attorney Eric Dixon has pleaded to lesser charges after being accused of using his vehicle to run down District Judge Teddy Hartley outside the Curry County Courthouse.
Dixon’s attorney Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso said Dixon entered an Alford plea Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of careless driving and petty assault. Dixon was originally charged in October 2011 with felony aggravated assault from an incident six months earlier
Under New Mexico law, an Alford plea is one in which the accused pleads guilty to a charge while simultaneously maintaining his innocence.
Dixon said the plea was a deferred adjudication and there was no finding of guilt. He also noted the aggravated assault charge was dismissed by the prosecutor with prejudice. The lesser charges will also be dismissed after a year, Mitchell and Dixon said.
The case was scheduled for a two-day jury trial beginning Tuesday at the Guadalupe County District Court with 12th Judicial District Attorney Scott Key acting as special prosecutor. Key didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Both Eric and the judge ... were very happy to get the matter resolved,” Mitchell said. “Both men felt a trial wasn’t going to do anybody any good.”
Mitchell said Dixon’s plea wouldn’t jeopardize his license to practice law.
The incident happened April 5, 2011, as Hartley was returning to his office from lunch, according to court documents filed by 3rd Judicial District Chief Investigator Kip Scarborough.
Hartley told investigators he was crossing Main Street in front of the courthouse when he heard a vehicle heavily accelerate with its horn blaring. Hartley, who was in the middle of the street, said the vehicle came straight at him and made no attempt to move to another lane. He said he recognized the driver as Dixon after making eye contact.
A Curry County employee corroborated Hartley’s account, telling investigators her first reaction was, “Oh my God, that vehicle is attempting to take Hartley out.”
According to court records, Dixon told the investigator he was proceeding down Main Street when he noticed someone “jaywalking on Main Street.” Dixon said the unknown subject didn’t look for traffic and proceeded to cross the street and Dixon gave a short honk and slowed down to 10 to 15 mph and passed the subject, who he recognized as Hartley.
Dixon also told investigators he was “in no way attempting to scare Hartley” and “that would jeopardize his career as an attorney by committing such an act,” according to court documents.
Hartley, now retired and contacted by telephone, said he was pleased the case had ended.
“It’s over,” Hartley said. “Let’s just leave it there.”