Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A brief filed with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blasts the federal government for concealing evidence in its case against a New Mexico family charged with illegal gun sales.
The district judge in the case against Rick Reese, Terri Reese and Ryin Reese had ordered a new trial after a jury came back with mostly not guilty verdicts. Among the dozens of charges, guilty verdicts were returned on only a few paperwork charges.
However, defense attorneys challenged the behavior of the prosecutors when they discovered – months after the trial – that the prosecution apparently had concealed information that one of the star witnesses for the government was under investigation himself for alleged criminal activities.
The defense argued that the information, had it been supplied to the defense and the jury, likely would have changed the outcome of the case.
The Obama administration appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after the trial judge ordered a new trial, explaining all over again how prosecutors believe the family members are guilty of a long list of charges.
Defense lawyers, including constitutional expert Herb Titus of the legal team at William J. Olson, P.C., wrote in their reply brief: “The Reeses are not on retrial here, and the issue is not whether the evidence is sufficient. The issue is whether the district court erred by granting the defense motion for a new trial.”
WND Columnist Jeff Knox repeatedly has documented advances in the case that has left gun rights advocates stunned by the prosecutors’ aggression.
Knox said the Obama administration put a bull’s-eye on the family, and after 526 days in jail, Rick and Terri Reese finally were released on bail pending a decision on a new trial.
“Rick, his wife, Terri, and son Ryin had been found guilty of failing to psychically intuit that undercover federal agents were lying on firearm transaction forms,” he explained.
“The reason for the judge’s [order for a new trial] was the discovery that a key prosecution witness, Detective Alan Batts of the Luna County Sheriff’s Office, was himself under investigation for corruption, and that prosecutors knew this, but presented him as unimpeachable and of the highest integrity,” Knox continued.
“It was also disclosed that Detective Batts either knew or suspected that he was under investigation, as he had made overtures to the FBI suggesting he was trying to ingratiate himself with them. Prosecutors intentionally kept this information away from attorneys for the defense and the judge, even though they are required by law to reveal this sort of information immediately.
“There is a lot riding on this case from the prosecution side as well. The U.S. attorney for New Mexico, Ken Gonzales, was recently nominated to a lifetime appointment as a federal judge by President Obama. The prosecutors in this case work directly for him, and he’s taken a personal, and public, interest in it. Having the case fall apart with nothing to show for the work put into it will reflect poorly on him – as well it should,” Knox wrote.
It was the government that ultimately revealed in a hearing in open court that material prosecutors had been trying to have the judge keep from the defense included the “impeachment material” linked to Batts, a key government witness.
The trial court, alarmed, followed up and ruled that the government “had suppressed evidence, and such evidence was favorable to all three defendants, and that the evidence was material to the outcome.”
Further, the ruling said the information could have altered the outcome of the trial.
While the prosecutors said they were unaware of the background of the witness, documentation and testimony revealed they had been told of the potential problem before the trial – that Batts may have been involved in “various criminal activities, including the misappropriation of suspects’ assets, drug trafficking and alien smuggling.”
“There is no doubt that the prosecution, intentionally or negligently, suppressed the evidence,” said the judge.
The prosecutors had alleged that the testimony was insignificant and irrelevant to the convictions.
In his commentary, Knox has noted the heavy financial burden of multiple defense attorneys for the family and notes readers can donate to the family’s defense fund through The Firearms Coalition at FirearmsCoalition.org.