BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Following two hours of testimony by Los Alamos Police Department detectives in Los Alamos Magistrate Court Monday, four charges against Eric Greene, 20, of White Rock were dismissed with prejudice by First Judicial District Asst. District Attorney Kent Wahlquist.
Greene had been charged in February with two counts of trafficking controlled substances, one count of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The preliminary examination before Magistrate Judge Catherine Taylor began with Wahlquist questioning Det. Sgt. Ryan Wolking, Det. Michael Weiss, Det. Matt Lyon and Det. Jemuel Montoya followed by cross-examination by Greene’s attorney William Snowden.
Under part of his cross-examination of Wolking, Snowden asked if it was allowed for off-duty officers or even on-duty officers to interact with Confidential Informants (CIs) and socialize with them. Wahlquist objected to the question on the basis of irrelevance and Snowden responded that the question was “absolutely relevant to this case as to what is going on with the CI”. Snowden said Wolking should be allowed to testify as to his own department’s regulation for a CI, that he had already indicated that he was aware of the procedure and should be allowed to answer. Judge Taylor allowed the testimony.
Wolking testified that according to policy, officers are “not allowed to fraternize with felons and that sort of thing”. He confirmed that officers are not allowed to fraternize with a CI outside work.
As testimony continued about a controlled drug buy operation involving Greene and a CI at a local hotel and the subsequent arrest of Greene, Snowden asked Detective Weiss about Detective Lyon’s participation in the investigation and again asked about fraternization. Weiss testified that he had never fraternized with the CI in the case and that as far as he was aware no other officer fraternized with the CI.
Moving on to Detective Lyon’s testimony, Snowden asked Lyon during cross-examination if he had ever hung out with a CI. Lyon replied that he has been in a group where they had been present but that he never hung out with a CI. Snowden asked him to define a group. Lyon responded, “A group of people – More than two”. Snowden then asked if that was in Los Alamos and Lyon said it was. “Did you ever go fishing with the CI?” Snowden asked. Lyon replied, “No.” Snowden asked Lyon if he had ever hung out at the CI’s house and Lyon responded no. Snowden asked Lyon if he had ever played tag with the CI in town with his patrol vehicle. Lyon said no.
Snowden asked Lyon if he ever received a cellphone from a woman named Cora Bigelow. Judge Taylor interrupted to ask who is Cora Bigelow and Snowden responded that she is “Mr. Greene’s baby’s mother”. “I don’t recall. I do remember working cases with Cora Bigelow,” Lyon said. Snowden asked if Cora Bigelow is the CI in the current case. “Not that I’m aware of, but I’m not the case agent,” Lyon responded.
Snowden went on to ask Lyon if he ever worked the case as far as the investigation looking into Greene, if he was involved in the investigation of the case at any time other than downloading Greene’s cell phone and the search, and if he ever drove Cora Bigelow around Los Alamos. Lyon responded “no” to each question.
Finally, Snowden asked Lyon he ever had “a physically amorous relationship with the CI” and Lyon asked for the definition of amorous and was told “physically intimate”. He responded, “Not with Cora or the CI.”
“This is your testimony under oath today – is that correct?” asked Snowden. “Yes,” responded Lyon. “And if the CI said different she would be lying?” asked Snowden. “Yes”, responded Lyon. At this point, Snowden told Judge Taylor he wished to introduce video into evidence and as Wahlquist had not seen the video, Judge Taylor directed the attorneys to leave the courtroom to view it. When the attorneys returned, Detective Montoya testified briefly and Judge Taylor announced a break for her to hear other cases at 1 p.m., asking that the case resume at 1:30 p.m. Upon the Reporter’s return to the courtroom, she was notified that the charges against Greene were dismissed with prejudice. Attorneys, witnesses, Greene and his parents were making their way out of the building.
The Reporter reached out to JoHanna Cox, public information for District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies to ask why the charges were dismissed at that point of the preliminary hearing. Her response was as follows:
“The First Judicial District Attorney discussed with the LAPD case agent (Det. Montoya) the strengths and weaknesses of the case, taking into account how evidence came out during the preliminary hearing and that the Defendant (Eric Greene) completed an in-patient treatment program a few weeks prior to the hearing. Based on all of those factors discussed with the LAPD case agent, the FJDA’s Office dismissed the case.”
Snowden, on the other hand told the Reporter that after the Lyon’s testimony and his cross-examination, he reviewed video Greene had in his possession with the prosecutor, Kent Wahlquist.
“After consideration of those videos and audios, and in light of Detective Lyon’s testimony Monday, the prosecutor decided to dismiss this case with prejudice. I found that whole process to be very distasteful and upsetting. As a resident of this community, to have testimony come from LAPD in the way it did, and the way things happened on this particular case, it was very upsetting and very disheartening to the criminal justice system,” Snowden said. “I look forward to seeing an external investigation conducted by New Mexico State Police or some police department other than LAPD – an in-depth and credible investigation into the officers in this case and their testimony.
Snowden later said the videos clearly contradict every particular of Detective Lyon’s sworn testimony.
“We can only assume that the DA saw exactly what was sadly evident – that the detective lied,” he said.
LAPD Chief Dino Sgambellone told the Los Alamos Reporter early Thursday afternoon via email that he has initiated an investigation into the situation and that as a matter of procedure, Det. Matt Lyon has been placed on administrative leave pending its conclusion. It is believed that the investigation will use internal and external resources.
“We take this matter very seriously and if we find that we could have done something better, we will learn from it and make appropriate adjustments as needed. This includes our open and ongoing dialogue with the District Attorney’s Office to effectively prosecute cases and that our case development, preparation and testimony remain professional and ethical,” Sgambellone said.