BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Note: Details of this story may be disturbing to some readers.
First Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Heather Smallwood has filed a motion for pretrial detention in District Court in the case of Michael Novak, 61, of Los Alamos who is now charged with 12 counts of criminal sexual penetration, 12 counts of criminal sexual contact, 2 counts of battery and 1 count of intimidating a witness. According to Los Alamos Magistrate Court documents filed by Los Alamos Police Department Det. Matt Lyon, the victim is a 9-year old girl Novak was babysitting overnight at his home at her mother’s request.
Novak was 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 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 Los Alamos Reporter reported Monday evening that online District Court files indicated Novak had been arrested in the 1990s on similar charges. See https://losalamosreporter.com/2021/01/25/district-court-records-reveal-some-details-of-michael-novaks-criminal-history/
When the Reporter reached out to District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies Monday to ask if Novak’s prior criminal history had been considered when deciding whether or not to seek pre-trial detention for Novak, she responded that the ADA (Smallwood) was not given Novak’s criminal history when the charges were filed.
“The only information she had was the charges which, while heinous, are not enough to under the current Supreme Court rules to justify detention. We are looking at changing our process to ensure we get the criminal history information prior to charges getting filed,” Carmack-Altwies said. “Also, I have instructed the ADA to take a look at the case and see if we can file a motion to revoke his conditions of release based on new information.”
It is not clear why the initial four charges were not sufficient to seek pre-trial detention under the Supreme Court rules without considering prior criminal history or why the current District Attorney’s office procedure does not involve its own review of prior criminal history at least for felony charges.
No date has yet been set for the pre-trial detention motion hearing by District Court Judge Jason Lidyard. Novak remained free on personal recognizance and pre-trial probation as of Wednesday afternoon.