Defense attorney Bill Snowden, far left, chats with his business partner Damian Horne following a hearing in First Judicial Court Friday as the defendant Seth Temple’s father Curt Temple looks on. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A hearing on conditions of release for a 23-year old Santa Fe man before First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington Friday was moved to Monday after it was revealed that a discussion on the case in the hallway between Asst. District Attorney Alain Clarke and defense attorney William Snowden had turned sour.
When Judge Ellington called the case, Snowden told him that he had approached Clarke out in the hallway and that Clarke had later said he felt threatened and phoned his office which resulted in an investigator showing up to question him.
“I don’t know if I can proceed with this individual as counterpart because he’s made a threat claim on me,” Snowden said.
Clarke asked Judge Ellington if he would like him to elaborate or just proceed with the release hearing and when asked if the claim was related to the case before him, Clarke responded saying the claim is surrounding the circumstances of the hearing.
The Los Alamos Reporter was present in the courthouse and spoke with Snowden and his business partner attorney Damian Horne about what had transpired. Snowden explained that his client, Seth Temple, is participating in a rehab program in Phoenix, Ariz. and is under pretrial services. Snowden said he had asked Clarke and District Attorney Mary Carmack if the DA’s office would agree to an amendment to Temple’s conditions of release that would allow him to stay in the rehab program until Mar. 18. Clarke is insisting that the decision to require Temple to return to New Mexico for an in-person hearing rather than amending his conditions of release in a manner that would allow him to finish his rehab program is Judge Ellington’s.
“Mr. Clarke said it’s the judge’s decision and I told him that’s absolutely not true. I told him that he could allow Temple to be released on agreed-upon conditions of release that would allow him to remain in rehab where we all agree he should be so that it’s not an issue that we violated conditions,” Snowden said. “I told him if he agreed to revised conditions, my client would be allowed to stay in rehab”.
He said he and Clarke went back and forth with regards to the various conditions and that Clarke walked over and sat down about 10 feet from him.
“I walked over and said I really didn’t think it was fair and that I didn’t think he was doing the right thing here. I don’t remember exactly what I said next, and he said, ‘You need to sit down’. I said,’ I can talk to you right now and I turned around and walked away. He said, ‘Have a good day’ and I said, ‘Have a good day’,” Snowden said.
Snowden said about 10 minutes later Gaspar Garcia, Chief Investigator for the DA’s office pulled him out of a conversation with another attorney.
“Gaspar said he understood I had threatened Alain Clarke. I indicated that I did not and that we were having a discussion. Gaspar (Garcia) said, ‘We’re not pressing charges against you right now but you need to keep it professional and you shouldn’t speak to our employees this way. He said Clarke thought he was in danger of immediate battery,” Snowden said.
He added that Gaspar was very accusatory and hostile towards him and that Gaspar had brought a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputy with him who was there when Gaspar interrogated him.
“At this point I don’t think I can work with a DA who has made allegations of a threat made by me. I don’t know how this individual can be on the case if he’s making reports that I’m putting him in imminent danger,” Snowden said.
He noted that there were several people sitting close by while he was talking to Clarke and that none of them intervened on Clarke’s behalf or told Snowden to settle down or that he was out of line.
“He didn’t say, ‘You’re in my space’, he didn’t indicate, ‘You’re threatening me’. He never said anything of that nature that would require him to feel I was going to attack him. I even think my hands were in my pockets the entire time we were discussing the case,” Snowden said.
Snowden noted that he and Clarke had some “back and forth” by email and that he had emailed Carmack Altwies to discuss his position.
“This is a case where we fought like hell to get our client into rehab and to get a travel order produced through Probation and we got him there. He was going to lose his bed at the rehab facility. He had permission to leave the state but I didn’t check the box to have Judge Ellington approve his conditions of release. So I called Mr. Clarke and asked if we could just take a position to agree on conditions of release so that we don’t have to have him in jail. Mr. Clarke said Judge Ellington never checks these things anyway and that Judge Ellington was probably going to ignore it so not to worry about it,” Snowden said.
“So I take full responsibility. I didn’t check one box. I didn’t approach Judge Ellington, but I think as a practical matter we should all be working towards the client and ensuring that he gets the appropriate care that he needs. He’s at the rehab facility now and we all know he’s there. He’s been there since a little before February 16 and he comes home Mar. 18,” he said.
Snowden said Temple had permission from the state to go to Arizona, that he had worked with Probation and was in contact with Temple’s family. He said there were two things he needed to do.
“I needed to run the travel to Arizona through state Probation and Judge Ellington and I simply missed checking the box for Judge Ellington. If I had approached the state and Judge Ellington before my client went to Phoenix, I’m pretty sure they would have agreed to these conditions of release,” he said.
Snowden said clearly the DA’s office is coming after him because he didn’t check the box and they’re punishing his client.
“That’s why they called the police over here to investigate me for what’s essentially a trumped up allegation that should never have been made – of assault or immediate battery,” he said.
Snowden’s business partner attorney Damian Horne chimed in saying the firm’s concern at this point is to ensure that a young man who is receiving help does not fail in his attempts to rehabilitate himself because of something “whether we’re responsible or the DA’s being recalcitrant”.
“We’ll take our lumps if we’ve messed up but I believe Bill (Snowden) is proceeding with integrity, certainly. He has proceeded in the assumption that he was doing the right thing and what the Court mandates more than it doesn’t,” Horne said.
Snowden said when he discussed the case with Clarke, he was hoping to gain some insight as to why the DA’s office was being so obstinate with the case.
“My relationship with this DA’s office is long, it’s difficult and I’m a person they know will go to the mat for their clients, and I started to believe this was not a position they were taking because of a box not checked off, this was a position they were taking to attack me through my client and put me in trouble,” he said.
Horne asked if it is not the stated policy of the current DA’s office administration to treat drug offenders – particularly those with addiction – with compassion and with therapy and rehabilitation.
“If that’s not your position, then let’s not hear about it as some sort of talking points for an election. And I think this is what has brought Bill (Snowden) to his usual level of passion. He will bang for his clients as they are often wont to say and he’s not going to be shut down,” Horne said.
Snowden confirmed that he will not be getting off Temple’s case.
While admitting that video feed of the area of the Courthouse Snowden and Clarke were in had not yet been obtained, Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett-Macias issued a statement Friday on behalf of the DA’s office.
“In front of a number of people, Snowden confronted ADA Clarke in the hallway, backing him into a corner, and posturing aggressively towards him. When called for help, our Chief Investigator responded along with a Deputy in the Courthouse to ensure that ADA Clarke was safe. Mr. Snowden’s behavior is inexcusable, and from what I can tell Mr. Clarke has done nothing wrong to warrant such hostility. If deemed appropriate, we will refer the incident to the State disciplinary board and defer to their independent investigation on the propriety of Mr. Snowden’s conduct,” the statement reads.
“The underlying case – the bottom line is that the defendant left New Mexico contrary to conditions of release, without the permission of the court, and without input from the State. As an office we are reasonable, encourage rehabilitation, and recognize the treatment needs of defendants, but there is a process that requires the Court’s approval. Mr. Snowden did not follow that process and circumvented both the Court and the State. As we explained to Snowden, we will defer to the court on the issue of conditions of release. That position has not changed and will be addressed with the Court at the next setting,” Padgett-Macias said.
Sources tell the Los Alamos Reporter that all video feed from throughout the courthouse is displayed on monitors in a windowless room in the courthouse that is staffed by an employee of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department. Normal protocol is that if that employee sees something needing an emergency response the employee dispatches sheriff’s deputies to the location. Video feed should show the demeanor of the two attorneys and records should indicate if the employee saw something improper occur.
It is not known why Clarke phoned Garcia and not law enforcement downstairs for an immediate response.
Meanwhile, Temple’s father has reportedly made arrangements for him to be present in-person for Monday’s hearing before Judge Ellington, which is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. His father has indicated that since his son removed himself from the rehab program, he will not be allowed to return.