United States District Court, D. New Mexico
Federici Attorney for the United States Acting Under
Authority Conferred Albuquerque, New Mexico and Maria Ysabel
Armijo Randy M. Castellano Matthew Beck Assistant United
States Attorneys United States Attorney's Office Las
Cruces, New Mexico Attorneys for the Plaintiff
Theresa M. Duncan Duncan, Earnest, LLC Albuquerque, New
Mexico and Marc M. Lowry Rothstein Donatelli, LLP
Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Defendant Anthony Ray
Christopher W. Adams Charleston, South Carolina and Amy
Sirignano Law Office of Amy Sirignano, P.C. Albuquerque, New
Mexico Attorneys for Defendant Christopher Garcia
Bruce Hotchkiss Todd B. Hotchkiss, Attorney at Law, LLC
Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorney for Manuel Jacob Armijo
E. Lopez, Jr. El Paso, Texas Attorney for Frederico Munoz
F. Kochersberger, III-Business Law Southwest, LLC Attorney
for Sergio Loya Rodriguez
Burgess-Farrell Barry G. Porter Burges & Porter Law, LLC
Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Manuel Benito
R. Esquibel The Barnett Law Firm Albuquerque, New Mexico and
R. Scott Reisch Reisch Law Firm, LLC Denver, Colorado
Attorneys for Vincent Garduno
Grano Grano Law Offices Las Vegas, New Mexico Attorney for
Mandel Lon Parker
Baiamonte Albuquerque, New Mexico and Ahmad Assed Ahmad Assed
& Associates Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Daniel
Baiamonte Albuquerque, New Mexico and Ahmad Assed Ahmad Assed
& Associates Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Daniel
A. Morrissey Santa Monica, California and Gregory M. Acton
Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Anthony Cordova
Moran Davidson Albuquerque, New Mexico and Billy R. Blackburn
Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorneys for Defendant Arturo
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Anthony
Cordova's Motion for Intra-District Transfer of
Proceedings, filed May 14, 2018 (Doc.
6l9)("Motion"). The Court held a hearing on June
14, 2018. The primary issue is whether the Court should alter
its plan to hold Defendant Anthony Cordova's trial at the
federal courthouse in Las Cruces, New Mexico and, instead,
hold Cordova's trial at the Pete V. Domenici Federal
Courthouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cordova is charged
with "offenses punishable with death" that
allegedly took place in Bernalillo County, so 18 U.S.C.
§ 3235 requires the Court to hold Cordova's trial in
Bernalillo County if "that can be done without great
inconvenience." 18 U.S.C. § 3235. Because the Court
can hold a single-defendant trial in the Pete V. Domenici
Federal Courthouse, which is within Bernalillo County,
without great inconvenience, the Court grants Cordova's
Court takes its background facts from the Superseding
Indictment, filed March 9, 2017 (Doc.
372)("Indictment"). The Court does not set forth
these facts as findings or for their truth. The Court
recognizes that the factual background is largely Plaintiff
United States of America's version of events and that the
Defendants are all presumed innocent.
case deals with the crimes that the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico
("SNM") allegedly committed through its members.
Indictment ¶¶ 1, 3, at 1-2. The SNM, through its
members, operated in the District of New Mexico at all
relevant times, and its members engaged in acts of violence
and other criminal activities, "including, murder,
kidnapping, attempted murder, conspiracy to
manufacture/distribute narcotics, and firearms
trafficking." Indictment ¶ 1, at 2. The SNM
constitutes an enterprise "as defined in Title 18,
United States Code, Sections 1959(b)(2) and 1961(4), that is,
a group of individuals associated in fact that engaged in,
and the activities of which affected interstate and foreign
commerce." Indictment ¶ 2, at 2. The enterprise is
"an ongoing organization whose
members/prospects/associates functioned as a continuing unit
for a common purpose of achieving the objectives of the
enterprise." Indictment ¶ 2, at 2.
is a prison gang formed in the early 1980s at the
Penitentiary of New Mexico ("PNM") after a violent
prison riot at PNM during which inmates seriously assaulted
and raped twelve correctional officers after taking them
hostage. Indictment ¶ 3, at 2. During the riot,
thirty-three inmates were killed, and over 200 were injured.
See Indictment ¶ 3, at 2. After the PNM riot,
the SNM expanded throughout the state's prison system and
has had as many as 500 members. See Indictment
¶ 4, at 2. The SNM now has approximately 250 members,
and "a 'panel' or 'mesa' (Spanish for
table) of leaders who issue orders to subordinate gang
members." Indictment ¶ 4, at 2-3. The SNM controls
drug distribution and other illegal activities within the New
Mexico penal system, but it also conveys orders outside the
prison system. See Indictment ¶¶3, 5, at
2-3. Members who rejoin their communities after completing
their sentences are expected to further the gang's goals,
the main one being the control of and the profit from
narcotics trafficking. See Indictment ¶ 5, at
3. Members who fail "to show continued loyalty to the
gang" may be assaulted or murdered. Indictment at 4. The
SNM also intimidates and influences smaller New Mexico
Hispanic gangs to expand its illegal activities. See
Indictment ¶ 6, at 3. If another gang does not abide by
the SNM's demands, the SNM will assault or kill one of
the other gang's members to show its power. See
Indictment ¶ 6, at 3. The SNM's rivalry with other
gangs also manifests itself in beatings and stabbings within
the prison system. See Indictment ¶ 7, at 4.
The SNM further engages in violence "to assert its gang
identity, to claim or protect its territory, to challenge or
respond to challenges, to retaliate against a rival gang or
member, [and] to gain notoriety and show its superiority over
others." Indictment ¶ 7, at 4. "Similarly, a
member of the SNM Gang is expected to confront and attack any
suspected law enforcement informants, cooperating
witness[es], homosexuals, or sex offenders." Indictment
¶ 8, at 4. To achieve its purpose of maintaining power,
the SNM uses intimidation, violence, threats of violence,
assault, and murder. See Indictment ¶¶
6-8, at 3-4. The SNM as an enterprise generates income by
having its members and associates traffic controlled
substances and extort narcotic traffickers. See
Indictment ¶ 7, at 4. The SNM's recent activities in
a conspiracy to murder high-ranking New Mexico Corrections
Department officials inspired the Federal Bureau of
Investigation's present investigation. See United
States v. Garcia, 221 F.Supp.3d 1275, 1277 (D.N.M.
FBI's SNM investigation resulted in this case as well as
three other cases that are presently before the Court.
See United States v. DeLeon, No. CR 15-4268;
United States v. Varela, No. CR 15-4269; United
States v. Garcia. No. CR 15-4275. United States v.
Varela and United States v. Garcia did not go
to trial, but the Court held two trials in United States
v. DeLeon, one four-defendant trial and one
seven-defendant trial. The two United States v.
DeLeon juries found eight of those eleven defendants
guilty of violating the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1959 ("VICAR"). See
United States v. DeLeon, No. CR 15-4268, Jury
Verdict at 1-3, filed March 12, 2018 (Doc. 1947); United
States v. DeLeon, No. CR 15-4268, Jury Verdict at 1-5,
filed May 25, 2018 (Doc. 2332). Five United States v.
DeLeon defendants are also charged in this case.
Compare Indictment at 1, with United States v.
DeLeon, No. CR 15-4268, Second Superseding Indictment at
1, filed March 9, 2017 (Doc. 947)("DeLeon
United States v. DeLeon, only one Defendant,
Cordova, is going to trial in this case. The Court dismissed
the charges against some Defendants. See Stipulated
Order of Dismissal at Order at 1, filed June 14, 2018 (Doc.
727)(dismissing the charges against Defendant Anthony Ray
Baca, Defendant Daniel Sanchez, and Defendant Arturo Arnulfo
Garcia without prejudice); Order Dismissing Richard Gallegos
Without Prejudice, filed January 30, 2017 (Doc. 3l7)(granting
the United States' Motion to Dismiss Richard Gallegos
Without Prejudice, filed November 22, 2016 (Doc. 260)). Other
Defendants made plea agreements with the United States.
See Plea Agreement, filed June 14, 2018 (Doc.
726)(Sergio Loya Rodriguez); Plea Agreement, filed June 13,
2018 (Doc. 72O)(Manuel Benito); Plea Agreement, filed June 7,
2018 (Doc. 7OO)(Mandel Lon Parker); Plea Agreement, filed
June 7, 2018 (Doc. 698)(Daniel Archuleta); Plea Agreement,
filed January 25, 2018 (Doc. 5O3)(Christopher Garcia); Plea
Agreement, filed March 1, 2017 (Doc. 368)(Manuel Jacob
Armijo); Plea Agreement, filed September 22, 2016 (Doc.
229)(Frederico Munoz). The Indictment alleges that Cordova
violated VICAR by murdering Shane Dix and with violating 18
U.S.C. § 924(c), (j)(1) during that murder. See
Indictment at 53-54. According to the Indictment, those
offenses took place in Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
See Indictment at 53.
First, Bifurcated United States v. DeLeon
January 29, 2018, the Court began the first of two bifurcated
trials in United States v. DeLeon. That trial
involved four defendants, Baca, Sanchez, Rudy Perez, and
Carlos Herrera. Six weeks later, on March 5, 2018, the
parties gave their closing statements and the jury began its
deliberations. While the jury was deliberating, the Court set
aside the next week, March 12-16, 2018 for pretrial hearings
regarding the second bifurcated United States v.
Second Bifurcated United States v. Deleon
Trial's Pretrial Conference.
March 12, 2018, while the jury from the first United
States v. DeLeon trial continued its deliberations - the
Court held the pretrial conference for the second United
States v. DeLeon trial. See United States v.
Deleon, Transcript of Hearing at 6:8-16 (Court)(taken
March 12, 2018), filed April 3, 2018 (Doc. 2O26)("Mar.
12 Tr."). At that time, the Court believed that the
second trial would involve eight defendants, but one
trial-two defendant, Shauna Gutierrez, entered into a plea
agreement with the United States a week before trial began.
See United States v. Deleon, Plea Agreement at 1,
filed March 29, 2018 (Doc. 2003). During the pretrial
conference - which the Court held in the same courtroom as
the first trial - the Court orally indicated that it might
move the second trial from Las Cruces to Albuquerque to
better accommodate the increased number of defendants:
I'm still a little undecided as to where we're going
to have this trial. Of course on the [juror] questionnaire we
have indicated it's here. And I think presumption-wise,
the case was indicted down here, I did the first trial down
here. We are looking at some rather large numbers. And so
I'm trying to make it work. There was some discussion of
putting it into the Sierra Blanca [court]room. And I'm
not as familiar with the courthouse here as some of y'all
may be, but I think that's the room right next door.
It's a little larger, but it's only six feet larger.
So it doesn't give me a lot more room. It doesn't
give me the room that I have up in say, the Rio Grande
[courtroom in the Albuquerque courthouse]. I think we've
all been in the Rio Grande up in Albuquerque.
I can't probably do the nice tables. I hope the [trial 1]
defendants would agree that this was a nice layout for them
during the trial. We worked very hard to make it one that
worked as far as optics from the jury standpoint, from the
voir dire standpoint, and also for the comfort of the
defendants and their counsel and the paralegals. I probably
can't do that with these sort of numbers that we're
looking at. So I'm still undecided about location.
Ms. Jacks[, Sanchez' learned counsel from Los Angeles,
California, ] has sort of educated us a little bit on her
experience around the country. And we may pick up one of her
tips as far as building two tables. And so, what I understand
Ms. Wild is thinking about doing is putting a table - just
one long table here for the counsel, and then behind that a
table for the defendants, and so you'll turn around. But
I don't have anything better, and Ms. Jacks says it seems
to work. So that's kind of what I'm looking at doing.
And that's probably going to be whether it's in this
room or Rio Grande or Sierra Blanca. I don't see any
other way to do any sort of seating. So probably that means
paralegals and other people that may sit with you may not be
able to sit with you. We can probably figure out places that
they can go. But right at the moment, the courtroom is still
open, the location is still open, and the seating arrangement
is probably going to move toward two long tables that I will
have to build for this trial.
So I don't have a lot more to say on that. I will still
be working with Ms. Wild, and I'll keep you posted. But
I'm concerned about the numbers that we're looking
at, that Las Cruces may just not be able to accommodate a
trial - I guess there is eight of you for the second trial.
So we'll just have to keep an eye on that.
Mar. 12 Tr. at 8:4-10:4 (Court).
The Mickendrow Letter.
afternoon, in response to the Court's indication that it
might hold the second United States v. DeLeon trial
in Albuquerque, Deputy United States Marshal Christopher
Mickendrow wrote a letter to the Court's Courtroom
Deputy; that letter was subsequently filed on the Court's
United States v. DeLeon docket. See United
States v. DeLeon, Letter from Christopher Mickendrow to
Carol Bevel at 1 (dated March 12, 2018), filed March 14, 2018
(Doc. l938)("Mickendrow Letter"). In his letter,
Mickendrow argues that the Court should not hold the second
United States v. DeLeon trial in Albuquerque for
• Cell block space: In short, the Cellblock's up in
ABQ cannot accommodate a trial of this size given the number
of in-custody defendants AND in-custody witnesses.
• USMS Las Cruces has 25 Cellblock locations and of
those we have 15 locations that inmates can be separated
sight and sound which is an important consideration when
considering in-custody witnesses and the in-custody
• USMS ABQ has 24 cells but only 5 places to separate
sight and sound locations. 5 spaces does not reasonably
address separatee issues which is something we would need to
• The AUSA office has already informed me that they
anticipate 32 in-custody witnesses (ex-parte info). I spoke
with defense and they were unable to provide me with a number
at this point but did anticipate a number of in-custody
witnesses. This does not even address housing of these
inmates (my next point).
• Prisoner Housing: In short, ABQ cannot reasonable
[sic] accommodate housing all of the in-custody defendants
AND in-custody witnesses and maintain the level of safety
required of our mandate.
• USMS Las Cruces has 6 possible locations to utilize
for housing of defendants and in-custody witnesses. This
allows us to address separatee issues of the ...