Q&A: DA talks crime, career
Last updated 2/26/2022 at 10:55am
Andrea Reeb, Curry and Roosevelt counties' first female district attorney, is retiring Tuesday. She's worked for the 9th Judicial District Attorney's office 25 years, was appointed lead DA in 2014 and has since been elected to the position twice.
Her term was scheduled to expire at the end of 2022.
She answered questions about her career via email last week:
Q: So you've been a prosecutor for 25 years now ... Is this the life you dreamed about when you were growing up?
A: I always knew I wanted to go to law school, I just wasn't sure what type of law I wanted to practice. But I immediately fell in love with being in the courtroom, representing victims, and trying to make my community safe for my children. I consider myself so lucky to have had a job where I loved coming to work every day.
Q: Talk about your career in the district attorney's office. What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment?
A: I feel my greatest accomplishment was staying with a job I love for 25 years. You don't see attorneys retiring from being a prosecutor because attorneys can make so much more money in private practice. My greatest accomplishment was not letting money control what I was meant to do ... public service.
Q: What has been your biggest disappointment?
A: My biggest disappointment has been the inability to often recruit good prosecutors. Sometimes I feel our elected officials don't understand if they want quality prosecutions, they need to raise the pay for prosecutors.
Prosecutors work long hours and see the most horrific crimes. They walk the path with victims for years through court. You can't hire a quality prosecutor for a starting salary of $60,000 a year and expect them to stay. Especially when competing against private firms and having student loans.
I hope some day soon Santa Fe will realize the importance of what prosecutors do every day and the importance of retaining these prosecutors so victims get the best prosecutors on their cases ensuring justice will be served.
Q: You've been involved in prosecuting a number of gruesome murder cases, from the shootings at the public library to the young mother stabbed to death at the city park. Which killer stands out? Was there one that haunts you more than the others?
A: So many cases stand out to me for different reasons. So many haunt my memories. So many victims I feel I established a close relationship with over the years that it would break my heart to see them hurting.
The two cases that stand out for me are the library mass shooting and the Carlos Perez homicide.
The library case because the horror and trauma these victims felt and still feel gets to me. Especially when you never think something like this will ever happen in your hometown.
The Perez homicide because he was an innocent child, sleeping in his bed. The sorrow his family and friends felt was just terrible. No child should die that way.
All I can hope for is I brought some bit of peace to their families.
Q: What about survivors of violent crimes? Is there one individual that has been particularly inspiring with the way they've handled adversity?
A: Absolutely, the victim that has inspired me the most is Jessica Baca. She was a victim of a violent domestic violence crime where her vocal cords were severed and she could hardly speak. She was so strong and was able to overcome this horrific crime, become an advocate for domestic violence victims and get her voice back. She is truly inspiring to me.
Q: The district attorney's office and Clovis Police Department had some fairly public spats in recent months, mostly communication issues. Is that a fair assessment? ... Police Chief Doug Ford retired late last year, and now you're retiring. Does that mean the problems between the two entities are resolved? Or are there ongoing trust issues that need to be rebuilt?
A: The Clovis Police Department and the district attorney's office are the largest law enforcement agencies in our area. How the Clovis Police Department does their job affects how well our office can prosecute a case. While the agencies have had disagreements on the proper way to handle certain things, I've always reminded myself that I was elected to represent crime victims and hold defendants accountable.
So, both agencies have got to be professional and put our differences aside. I have tried to do exactly that and instill that in my prosecutors.
I think both agencies are open to trying harder to work together and I don't see any issues under the new leadership on both sides that will prevent that from occurring.
Q: Now that you're "retired," you've said you plan to work as a special prosecutor around the state. What exactly does that mean?
A: What I hope to do is still prosecute for other district attorney offices across the state if they have a conflict with someone they are prosecuting. For example, when the attorney general's office had a conflict with the Sheriff Lujan case (Rio Arriba County) because they had him as a witness in another matter they were prosecuting, they asked me to handle it.
Conflicts occur for many reasons. It could even be that the matter is extremely complicated and there is not an experienced prosecutor in their office to effectively handle the matter as they are overworked and lack experience. I currently will start a contract on March 1 helping with the marijuana expungements for each office.
So, there are many different areas I could assist other offices.
Q: This year's legislative session started with lawmakers planning to get tough on crime. But fair to say you were disappointed in what was actually accomplished?
A: Yes, that is fair to say. We have a crime problem in this state. It is time to take it seriously. I felt crime didn't get addressed in this session as it should have been.
When criminals can be out on conditions of release with four or five pending cases, we have an issue. When there are juveniles using firearms in the community, we have an issue. It's time to take crime seriously and hold criminals in custody pending trial.
Crime bills the DAs pushed session after session, which were never taken seriously, were brought up this session as some "new" tough on crime legislation. I wish people would open their eyes and see it's time for change ... and then really make it happen.
Q: You announced this month plans to run for the state representative seat held by Randal Crowder, who is stepping down. Why do you want that job? And do you see politics as your next career? Do you have long-term goals of becoming Gov. Reeb or President Reeb?
A: Since 2014, I have been participating in the legislative session lobbying for and against crime bills. I have enjoyed being part of the process in Santa Fe, whether it's speaking on behalf of victims or fighting against proposed bad crime legislation. I believe I have a unique perspective as an attorney, and from my years in prosecution and working with law enforcement.
I would like to advocate now for New Mexicans in all areas. At this time, I have no long-term goals of moving up in politics. I'm looking forward to working at the state level.
- Compiled by David Stevens, Publisher