BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A tort case has been filed against two Los Alamos Police Department officers, Los Alamos County and LAPD by Los Alamos resident Michael Bustamante in connection with his August 2022 arrest on a charge of concealing his identity, a petty misdemeanor, which was subsequently dismissed twice in Magistrate Court. The complaint was filed by the Snowden Law Firm and the David Foster Law Firm. Attorney Bill Snowden represented Bustamante in Magistrate Court.
The complaint alleges that on the afternoon of August 6, 2022, Bustamante, his fiancée and a friend were at his residence in Los Alamos County and that his friend was intoxicated and attempting to leave the residence in his vehicle so to deter him, Bustamante attempted to physically restrain him. During the struggle Bustamante asked his fiancée to call 911 so that he could receive police assistance in stopping his friend, the complaint states, but “by the time the police arrived, the friend was no longer attempting to drive, their struggle had ended and nothing unlawful or improper was happening” and Bustamante’s friend was sitting in the passenger side of his truck. LAPD Cpl. Adam Jung arrived on the scene first and focused his attention on the friend who was in his truck, the complaint states, and Hudspeth arrived shortly thereafter and immediately focused his attention on Bustamante.
“Without any suspicion or justification to detain Bustamante, Hudspeth immediately placed him in handcuffs and removed a Leatherman from the front of his pocket. Hudspeth later falsely claimed in his report that the Leatherman was a pocket knife. Hudspeth, without legal or probable cause, asked Bustamante to identify himself and Bustamante, as allowed by law, remained silent. Hudspeth demanded that he identify himself and give a statement. Bustamante exercised his constitutional right to stay silent. Hudspeth advised him that if he continued to not provide him with his identification he could be arrested for concealing his identity under NMSA Par. 30-22-3,” the complaint states.
It alleges that at the time, Bustamante had not committed any criminal offense and Hudspeth and Jung knew or should have known that he had not committed any criminal offense. When Hudspeth detained Bustamante a criminal offense had not occurred nor did Hudspeth have any reasonable suspicion to believe he had committed a criminal offense that justified Hudspeth’s demand that Bustamante show him his identification. Hudspeth should have known when a police officer can arrest someone for the crime of concealing identity, the complaint says, and that Hudspeth knew or should have known when a police officer can lawfully detain someone. Hudspeth arrested Bustamante for concealing identity and filed criminal charges of concealing identity against Bustamante in Los Alamos Magistrate Court. “Bustamante was detained for two days in the Los Alamos Detention Center since August 6 was a Saturday and he could not be brought before the Court until Monday,” the complaint alleges.
It gives an account of how on August 15, 2022, Snowden had filed a motion to dismiss the charge and that Magistrate Judge Pat Casados, now retired, had granted the motion to dismiss based on Snowden’s motion.
On September 19, 2022, Snowden filed a tort claim notice for false arrest and other causes for action with Los Alamos County and LAPD. On November 7, 2022, the District Attorney’s Office re-filed the criminal charges against Bustamante. “On information and belief, LAPD contacted the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office and asked the state to re-file the charges because Bustamante had filed a tort claim notice. On December 29, 2022, Judge Joseph Madrid dismissed the concealing identity charge with prejudice,” the complaint says.
It continues, “When Hudspeth arrested Bustamante he placed the handcuffs on too tightly causing him to yell out in pain and suffer injuries. Bustamante asked Hudspeth to loosen the cuffs many times during the detention but Hudspeth refused to do so. As a result of Hudspeth’s actions, Bustamante sustained injuries to his hand. A properly trained officer would have known how to properly handcuff a person, would have recognized that he was in severe pain due to the manner in which he was handcuffed. Jung and Hudspeth knew or should have known that there was no lawful basis for him to be arrested. Jung knew or should have known that Hudspeth’s detention and arrest of Bustamante for concealing identity was unlawful and a violation of his civil and constitutional rights. Jung and Hudspeth acted in concert on August 6, 2022. Jung did nothing to stop Hudspeth’s unlawful actions. LAPD’s failure to train, supervise and instruct Hudspeth and Jung on the law and condition is a proximate cause of Bustamante’s injuries. As a result of their actions, Bustamante suffered injuries and damages. As a result of their actions, Bustamante sustained nerve damage and had temporary loss of the full use of his left hand.”
“As a result of their actions, Bustamante spent two days incarcerated in the County Detention Center and lost his freedom. His name and picture were published in the media causing public knowledge of this false arrest and damaging his reputation. He was deprived of his Second Amendment rights due to the initiation of a criminal case. As a result his employment, pay and reputation at Los Alamos National Laboratory were adversely affected. His Q clearance was revoked and as a result of the LAPD officers’ actions Bustamante will have to address and deal with his false arrest for concealing identity in any future Q clearance reviews. Bustamante suffered physical injury, mental and emotional anguish, pain and suffering, and reputational and employment damage,” the complaint says.
The tort case seeks compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial; pre- and post-judgment interest on any amounts recovered in the case; costs including attorneys’ fees; and any further relief the Court may deem appropriate under the circumstances.
The case alleges deprivation of Bustamante’s U.S. and New Mexico Constitutional Rights. It also alleges battery against Bustamante and claims that Hudspeth “intentionally touched or applied force to Bustamante’s body without justification when he arrested and handcuffed him”. Jung, by failing to stop Hudspeth from committing the offense of battery, was an accomplice, the complaint alleges. It accuses the County and LAPD of condoning and ratifying Hudspeth’s conduct in battering Bustamante.
The fourth issue is false arrest and imprisonment and alleges the defendants are liable for all damages caused by their actions.
The complaint alleges two counts of malicious prosecution, accusing the defendants of initiating a case against Bustamante with an “improper purpose”, and re-filing the criminal case without proper grounds.
Bustamante alleges defamation of character/libel in that LAPD “wrote and published false and malicious statements” that “exposed him to contempt, embarrassment, ridicule and disgrace”, and that the complaint filed was “false and defamatory” in that it accused Bustamante of a “crime he did not commit”.
Retaliation/abuse of process is also alleged in that when Bustamante filed a tort claim notice with the County in September 2022, LAPD allegedly contacted the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office to re-file the complaint that had been dismissed by Judge Casados.
“The primary motive in seeking the re-filing of a previously dismissed criminal complaint was an illegitimate end,” the complaint reads.
It also alleges negligent training and supervision in that the defendants either “did not provide proper training of Hudspeth and Jung or failed to ensure they followed their training” and that because of this Hudspeth falsely arrested Bustamante and Jung failed to intervene to stop Hudspeth.
The complaint document alleges under the punitive damages section that Hudspeth and Jung were directed by LAPD to request identity during their encounters with members of the public and that LAPD should have known that this deprived persons of their civil rights and constitutional rights. It states that punitive damages should be awarded against the defendants to “punish them and deter others against similar conduct in an amount to be determined at trial”.
Under “Damages”, the complaint says Bustamante “lost the worth of his liberty while unlawfully detained, including his enjoyment of life and liberty”. “Damages include hedonic damages for the value of the loss of enjoyment of life itself as well as economic damages, physical and mental pain, suffering, anguish and trauma,” the complaint states. Damages are also being sought for “temporary loss of the full use of (Bustamante’s) hand and because he had to “seek and receive medical attention, incurring medical and other expenses”.
The complaint also states that because the conduct of the defendants involved “intentional misconduct, recklessness, gross negligence and/or callous indifference and/or the defendants’ conduct was motivated by malice, evil motive or intent (Bustamante) is entitled to recover a separate award of punitive and exemplary damages against each defendant”. The Los Alamos Reporter will publish the County’s response to the tort complaint as soon as it is filed in District Court records. The case has been assigned to Judge Jason Lidyard.