Michael Novak/Photo Courtesy LAPD
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
First Judicial District Court records located online by the Los Alamos Reporter indicate that Michael Novak, 61, of Los Alamos was arrested in 1995 and charged with two counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child aged 13-16 years and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Novak was again arrested Jan. 21 and charged with two counts of criminal sexual penetration in the first degree of a child under 13 and two counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor – child under 13 unclothed. He was released on personal recognizance by Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados following a telephonic hearing. In addition to standard conditions of release, Novak was ordered to report to pre-trial services daily and have no contact with anyone under 18 with zero tolerance.
The 139 pages in the online records of the District Court case do not include police reports, an affidavit for an arrest warrant, or Magistrate Court records of the initial charges. It is unlikely that Los Alamos County records are available from the 1990s, however the Reporter has asked County for any records that might exist. Magistrate Court documents other than driving under the influence records are destroyed after two years, according to the Magistrate Court, because it is not a “court of record”.
The District Court online records indicate that the District Court Judge Petra Maes signed a plea agreement for Novak under which he pleaded no contest to the two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor by providing her with alcohol. Under the agreement, the District Attorney’s office agreed to drop the two charges of criminal sexual penetration and not to seek more than 364 days of incarceration. According to the records, Novak was given a three-year sentence with all but 30 days of it suspended and placed on probation for the remaining 2 years and 11 months.
The records also indicated that in November 1997 Novak gave his probation officer a copy of a criminal complaint charging him with criminal sexual contact with two patients while performing duties as a massage therapist. The probation officer recommended that Novak be kept on probation pending the outcome of those charges. In March 1998, the probation officer reported to the Court that Novak pleaded no contest to those two charges in Los Alamos Magistrate Court. He was given two years of supervised probation for each charge and 15 days in jail for each count, but his District Court probation was not revoked due to the Magistrate Court case. On June 24, 1999, Novak received a satisfactory order of discharge from District Court probation.
The Los Alamos Reporter reached out to the current First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies on last week’s charges to see if the Heather Smallwood, the prosecutor handling the case had considered Novak’s criminal history in deciding whether or not to seek pre-trial detention for him. Carmack-Altwies agreed to look into the issue Monday but a response has not yet been received.
Meanwhile, members of the community, including some who were close to the circumstances surrounding Novak’s arrests in the 1990s, have been critical of Judge Casados for releasing Novak on personal recognizance pending trial on the current charges. However, in order for Novak to be held on pre-trial detention, the District Attorney’s office would have to have filed a motion in District Court (not Magistrate Court) requesting that Novak be incarcerated pending the outcome of his trial. At that point, Judge Casados could have detained Novak until the District Court decided whether to incarcerate him until trial.
Article II, Sec. 13 of the Constitution of New Mexico addresses the bail issue. It states that bail may be denied by a court of record, in this case the District Court, pending trial for a defendant charged with a felony if the prosecuting authority, the District Attorney, requests a hearing and proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community.
A newspaper article from the archives of The New Mexican dated Dec. 19, 1995, reports Novak’s indictment. It notes that he was arrested and jailed on a $50,000 cash bond. It quotes then Chief of Police Alan Kirk as stating that investigators had been working on the case for a year, and that “the Los Alamos girl’s case was among several similar complaints against Novak that had been reported to police”.