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Arrests of Prominent People

Lately, the tide is turning against the former privileged class: politicians and police. While the majority are still likely to talk their way out of an arrest when no accident is involved, more and more are finding out that the law is affecting them, too.

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Lawrence County Jurist's Bond $1M

Lawrence County Justice Court Judge Bobby Fortenberry, a 16-year veteran of the bench, was arrested on felony drug charges Friday after a four-year investigation, law enforcement officials said.

Fortenberry, 46, of Newhebron had 2.5 grams of crystal methamphetamine in his possession when he was arrested on Mississippi 550 in Brookhaven, said Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Capt.  Mike Aldridge.

No Drugs in Bag Seized From Judge

    A bag of white powder handed to police by the wife of 4th District Judge Ray Harding Jr., triggering his July arrest, turned out not to contain cocaine or any illegal drug when tested by the state's crime lab.
    Defense attorney Edward Brass now argues a search warrant subsequently acquired by police for Harding's Highland home was obtained under false pretenses, and the evidence gathered by police should be suppressed.
    If that happens, the state's case against the judge would be gutted.
    Believing the bag held cocaine, based in part on a positive field test, police arrested Harding on July 13 and persuaded another judge to issue the search warrant. Harding, 49, later was charged with two counts of third-degree felony drug possession. He has pleaded innocent.
    That morning, Anne Harding called police to the home, claiming that her husband was a drug abuser, and handed officers the bag, containing one-sixteenth of an ounce of white powder she claimed was cocaine.
    The search warrant request was based on her allegations and the positive test
Third District Judge Denise Lindberg said police could search the home as well as take hairs from the judge's head for drug testing.
    But subsequent tests at the Utah Crime Laboratory proved the white powder provided by Harding's wife did not contain any controlled substances.
    Two other bags of white powder seized by police also tested negative for illegal drugs, according to a crime lab report dated July 26 and disclosed in Brass' suppression motion, filed this week.
    Prosecutors nevertheless charged Harding in September -- apparently based on tests of the judge's hair, which allegedly indicated he had used cocaine and heroin.
    Police also said they witnessed Harding staggering and shaking at the time of his arrest.
    Traces of cocaine or heroin were found on 11 items seized by police that Harding allegedly used to snort or smoke illegal drugs, including two metal spoons and several straws, according to the crime lab report.
    Utah law does not specify a minimum amount of drugs required to support a drug possession charge.
    Brass claims the search warrant that allowed police to take the 11 items, the judge's hair and other evidence was obtained based on "false allegations" and "bogus evidence."
    "The fact that the bag presented by Mrs. Harding did not contain illegal drugs undermines all portions of the affidavit containing her drug-related allegations," Brass said.
    Brass also claims police exceeded the scope of the search warrant by seizing Harding's large gun collection, his passport and other items not related to drugs or drug paraphernalia. Police have said they removed Harding's guns at the request of his wife.
    Brass adds that police should have told Lindberg about the Hardings' marital problems, which would have put her "in a much fairer position to assess probable cause."
    Kirk Torgensen, chief deputy of the Utah Attorney General's criminal division, declined to comment Tuesday, saying his office would file a written response with 3rd District Judge Timothy Hanson by Jan. 23.
    Arguments on the suppression request are set for Jan. 27 before Hanson. A two-day trial is set for March 18.
    But if Hanson agrees with the defense that police violated Harding's Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure, prosecutors probably would be forced to dismiss the case.
    In October, Anne Harding obtained a restraining order against her husband of two years, claiming she feared revenge for calling the police.
    Testifying at the restraining-order hearing, Anne Harding said she first saw her husband smoking cocaine in January.
    During the next six months, she said, his drug use increased while he became more delusional and aggressive, often swearing at her and once slamming her against a concrete wall. She claims she called police because her husband refused to seek drug counseling.
    She filed for divorce in November.
    In court documents, Harding -- who has been on paid administrative leave -- has denied abusing his wife or placing her in fear for her safety.
    After his arrest, he spent three months in drug-abuse therapy at the Betty Ford Clinic in California. He has been a judge since 1995.

KOBTV Eyewitness News 4 has learned that an Albuquerque police officer was arrested in Red River for drunk driving.

APD Detective James Hopper was arrested over Memorial Day weekend in Red River, just outside Questa in northeastern New Mexico. Red River police say Hopper had alcohol on his breath.

“At booking, he refused a breathalyzer test, enhancing the charge to aggravated driving while intoxicated,” said Red River police Sergeant Jerry Hogrefe.

Hopper’s attorney, Tom Clear, says Hopper was not drunk, and did not refuse the test. Instead, he says Hopper was chewing tobacco, and told officers they would have to wait 20 minutes for it to leave his system.

The Red River police report says Hopper “had difficulty maintaining his balance.” During a field sobriety test, the report says Hopper could not complete the one-leg stand, count to 21, or recite the alphabet. Also, according to the report, Hopper asked Hogrefe to give him a break since he was an officer too.

Clear denies the allegations, saying Hopper was off-balance because he was standing on a steep incline. Clear also says Hopper never asked for a break.

Hopper is an undercover narcotics officer. A spokesperson for APD refused an interview, and would only say Hopper is on the force, but was reassigned out of the narcotics unit.

KOBTV: Albuquerque police say Judge John Brennan’s blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit for driving on the night he was arrested.

Brennan was arrested early Saturday morning near a DWI checkpoint. Police say he was driving and trying to avoid the checkpoint. He and his passenger, Patricia Mattioli, a state Commission on Higher Education employee, were arrested and charged with drug possession after police say they found cocaine on his pants.

A toxicology report says Brennan’s blood-alcohol content was 0.16, twice the legal limit of 0.08. Whether cocaine was in his system won’t be known for several more weeks.

Brennan is the chief judge of the Second Judicial District, which is based in Albuquerque. His peers elected him to that position in 1983. Brennan has served on family and civil courts since 1979.

Brennan is on a paid leave of absence, and is in an undisclosed rehabilitation center in California. His cases have been divided up, and Children’s Court Judge Tommy Jewel is the acting district court chief.

Brennan has not yet been charged with DWI.

The state Supreme Court ruled that Brennan would not be immediately suspended, but needs to appear in front of the court July 14 to argue for his job.

The Judicial Standards Commission had sought Brennan’s temporary removal from all judicial duties.

(Santa Fe-AP) -- A Santa Fe police detective has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.

Records show the plea was entered in April by 45-year-old Donato Velasco in magistrate court in Santa Fe.

Records also show Velasco received a suspended 90-day jail sentence and was ordered to pay a $300 fine and $515 in court fees.  He has been ordered to attend DWI school.

State police say Velasco was arrested last November First at a Santa Fe street intersection after an officer noticed Velasco’s vehicle failed to use a turn signal.

Authorities say Velasco’s breath alcohol test registered .089 percent.

New Mexico’s legal blood alcohol limit for drivers is point-08 percent.

The son of a northern New Mexico district attorney was allowed to go home with his father and wait about two hours before he was administered a breath test that showed his blood-alcohol level was above the legal level.

“It allowed him to sober up and not get an aggravated DWI,” said Las Vegas resident Sean Harapat.

Police say what the officer did was not normal procedure and action will be taken.  The district attorney says he was only helping his son and didn’t do anything wrong.

When 23-year-old Marcos Sandoval got his truck stuck in the mud in Las Vegas at 1:00 a.m., court documents show he told a state police officer he was putting up campaign signs for his father, San Miguel District Attorney Matt Sandoval.

Police suspected that Sandoval had been drinking and called his father to the scene. 

According to the elder Sandoval, the police officer told him that he had to respond to an emergency call, and Sandoval said “Okay, I’ll take him to my house.”

Roughly two hours later, the officer went to the Sandoval home and took Marcos to State Police headquarters in Las Vegas where blood-alcohol testing revealed a level of  .14.  An individual is considered legally intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level of .08.

“I think it’s pretty disgusting the way somebody gets a two-hour break in order to take their breathalyzer test,” says Las Vegas resident Sean Hapapat.  “It gave this individual time to sober up.”

Had Marcos’ blood alcohol level been two one hundredths higher, at .16, he could have been found guilty of aggravated DWI and faced a minimum of two days in jail.

Instead, Sandoval received no jail time, and his $500 fine was suspended.  He will have to attend driving school.

Santa Fe candidate apologizes for lying about DWI

A state Senate candidate has apologized for failing to disclose a past drunken driving conviction.

State Senate candidates from Santa Fe were asked during a forum earlier this week if they had ever been arrested for driving while intoxicated.

All of the candidates, including Letitia Montoya, said no.

But the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Tuesday that Montoya was convicted of DWI in 1984 in Bernalillo County.

Montoya issued a written statement yesterday saying she didn't tell the whole truth when answering the DWI question.

She says her children were in the audience during the forum and were not aware of the conviction.

Montoya says she didn't want to embarrass herself or her children by answering the question candidly.

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