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

Dismissal hearing set in rape case


June 28, 2018

CLOVIS — The three airmen accused of raping a colleague early this year in Clovis are scheduled for a hearing next month on a motion to dismiss their case on the grounds of “prosecutorial misconduct.”

The motion was filed this month by Albuquerque-based public defender Craig Acorn, representing 19-year old Isaiah Edley. Judge Drew Tatum will preside over the July 9 hearing, to be attended by co-defendants Thomas Newton, 25, and Rahman Buchanan, 18. The three were each charged in January with second-degree criminal sexual penetration; they and their alleged victim all worked at Cannon Air Force Base at the time of the incident.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover, prosecuting the case for the state, told The News he instructed the alleged victim not to respond to a subpoena for a June 5 pre-trial interview, citing his unavailability to be present with her at the time.

“At the end of the day it is possible that I will be held in contempt for doing that. I hope the court will not dismiss the case,” he said. “I really had no choice. ... I was in a position where I had to either advocate for the victim in this case, or I had to not advocate for her and allow her to be submitted to this interview without my being present. I chose and felt that it was more appropriate to advocate for her and to reschedule that interview for another time when I could be there.”

In his motion, Acorn said he advised the state of the June 5 interview a week in advance and denied a May 30 request from Stover to reschedule the interview, noting “the DA’s personal presence was not necessary and he could send someone else from his office as a representative.”

Stover acknowledged that others in the DA office might have attended in his place, and that the alleged victim also has an Air Force attorney. Even so, he said “there’s no substitute for the relationship that a prosecutor has to have with a victim and the trust that has to be there.”

Acorn’s motion recommends several courses of action: to dismiss the case, to exclude the testimony of the alleged victim, or for the state to explain why she did not appear at the June 5 interview. Another alternative, as Stover mentioned to The News, is that he be directly sanctioned, amounting to up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“We’re kind of surprised that Mr. Stover would think it’s okay to interfere with a valid court order, which is what a subpoena is,” Acorn told The News. “I don’t know what the court is going to do with it. I hope that they think it’s a serious breach of ethics and rules to do what they did. ... I’d ask for a sanction that sends a strong message that you shouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t even consider doing that.”

Stover said he was on June 5 “attending a mission trip with a local youth group,” one scheduled well in advance of the week’s notice preceding the pre-trial interview. He denied assertions in Acorn’s complaint that Edley was “being stonewalled by the state.”

“We’re certainly not playing hide-the-ball,” he said. “The issue here is that we’re trying to balance the need of these defense attorneys to interview the victim, which is very real, against subjecting this victim to repeated interviews and harassment that comes from being interviewed again and again and again and having to relive a situation again and again and again.”

Newton’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, and Buchanan on Tuesday had yet to receive a public defender appointment (after moving to change from representation by a private Albuquerque attorney).

The trio remain out on bond and are scheduled for trial together in mid-October. Interviews are still being scheduled.


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