The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Airmen's detention status being appealed

 

February 23, 2018



CLOVIS — Appeals are in progress on the detention statuses of the three airmen who pleaded not guilty Thursday on rape charges from an incident last month in Clovis.

In arraignments Thursday morning, Judge Matthew Chandler set a March 19 status conference date for all three defendants, who have remained without bond in the Curry County Adult Detention Center following their Jan. 27 arrests in Portales.

Thomas Newton, 24, Isaiah Edley, 19, and Rahman Buchanan, 18, were indicted this month on one count each of second-degree criminal sexual penetration. They were arrested at Newton’s Roosevelt County residence within hours of a female airman telling police they assaulted her at a house party outside of Cannon Air Force Base, according to court records.

District Attorney Andrea Reeb declined the base’s request to assume jurisdiction on the matter, and the courts approved her motions this month for pre-trial detention without bond on the trio.

Defense attorneys were soon to appeal that order, arguing against the state’s concerns over jurisdiction, flight risk and potential danger to the community.

“The State’s allegations against Defendant are sensational, but not substantial,” wrote Shammara Henderson, an Albuquerque-based private attorney representing Buchanan. “To overcome Defendant’s constitutional right to pretrial release, the State has the burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that Defendant poses a danger to public safety, and that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community. The court abused its discretion when it found the State had made this showing.”

In the Feb. 15 motion to appeal the detention order, Henderson said the testimony offered in court by the investigating Clovis police officer was “internally inconsistent; originated from a suspect source (the alleged victim); and was not corroborated or supported by accounts of independent observers.”

She also said her client Buchanan had no criminal history and that the court erred in declining to accept the option of his pre-trial release into the supervisorial custody of the base.

Assistant Attorney General Marko Hananel recommended affirming the district court’s order in a response Tuesday to Henderson’s motion. He told The News on Thursday that he “would anticipate something soon” from the state Court of Appeals on the matter.

“Defendant’s alleged crime is extremely serious and violent in nature,” he wrote in the response. “Moreover, both Defendant and (the alleged victim) are enlisted members of the Air Force and connected with Cannon (AFB). This close proximity — coupled with the district court’s lack of oversight over the base — complicates the State’s efforts to protect (the alleged victim) from future contact, a matter that is essential to her wellbeing.”

Newton’s attorney Benjamin Herrman also filed a Feb. 15 appeal on behalf of his client, to which the state is required to file a response within five calendar days of Tuesday, records show.

Edley’s attorney Craig Acorn said Thursday he intended to file that day a similar appeal on his client’s detention status.

Chandler tentatively scheduled a docket call, jury selection and jury trial on the matter for June but noted those dates could change after the status conference next month. The cases for the three men are currently joined, meaning they would be tried together, records show. But that can change at any time before trial if the attorneys so decide, Acorn added.

“Our main point, and probably it’s true of all of us, all of the defendants, is that the court really didn’t follow the law in ordering preventative detention. They have to look at a weight of evidence and a lot of factors that have to do with propensity of danger. The weight of the evidence was quite light,” he told The News. “We feel fairly confident the Court of Appeals is going to look at that and say ‘You abused your discretion.’ This is one of the reasons we chose to appeal it directly to the appellate court rather than asking it to be reconsidered (in district court).”

 

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