District Attorney’s Office Expresses Disappointment In Rejection Of Plea In Rio Arriba County Triple Homicide Case

Editor’s note: Please note the following was written by a representative of the District Attorney’s Office and sent to the Los Alamos Reporter as a news release.

The First Judicial District Attorney’s office is disappointed in Judge Jason Lidyard’s decision today to reject the plea of life plus nine years in the case of State v. Gage. Mr. Gage attempted to plead guilty to a brutal triple homicide.

District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies stated, “The victims’ families were very clear with us that they do not want to go through another trial. The last one was traumatic for them, and they whole-heartedly agreed that this plea was justice in their eyes.”

The office of the District Attorney, in consultation and conjunction with the victims, chose a plea that required the Defendant to plead to all three murders, but to run them concurrently as an inducement to plead and in recognition that he was taking responsibility for his actions.

“I recognize that as an elected member of the judiciary in the State of New Mexico, Judge Lidyard has broad discretion that is rarely subject to appellate accountability or higher court review; however, I, too, have discretion that affords me the ability to weigh different factors and considerations in the pursuit of justice. I take this responsibility seriously – this plea contemplated justice over the power that comes with discretion,” said Carmack-Altwies.

Further, the District Attorney’s office notes that Judge Lidyard has had the signed plea paperwork for over two weeks, since April 28. “If Judge Lidyard had concerns with the carefully considered, trauma-informed plea, it would have been simple to send an email or schedule a hearing to outline his concerns, rather than rejecting the plea this morning and denying the families of the victims closure,” said Carmack-Altwies.

Prosecutors are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to navigate Judge Lidyard’s inconsistencies. Today, he rejected a plea to a life sentence plus 9 years, but on February 2, 2021, over State’s objection, Judge Lidyard released Timothy Lopez, a defendant charged with first degree murder, back into the Rio Arriba community on conditions of release.

The District Attorney’s office believes the decision to reject the plea in the case of State v. Gage is a disservice to the pursuit of justice, and particularly to the families involved.