BY MAIRE O’NEILL
First Judicial District Judge Jason Lidyard has denied a request from the prosecutor to excuse him from presiding in the Los Alamos case of Michael Novak. Judge Lidyard found probable cause that Novak had committed four counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 and one count of criminal sexual contact with a minor during a preliminary hearing held February 24. He also granted a motion for pre-trial detention and ordered Novak remanded to the Los Alamos County Detention Center pending trial.
On February 26, in a seemingly surprise move, Assistant District Attorney Heather Smallwood filed a motion to excuse Judge Lidyard from the case. No reason is required to request an excusal. The Los Alamos Reporter reached out to District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies Friday for a statement on the issue but she declined to comment.
In his denial of Smallwood’s motion, Judge Lidyard noted that a party in a case may not excuse a judge after that party has requested that judge to perform any discretionary act. He said he had held a preliminary hearing for Novak at the state’s request and found probable cause to support some of the charges in the criminal information filed by the state against Novak but also found no probable cause to support other charges. Judge Lidyard then scheduled an arraignment for Novak on the charges for Mar. 10.