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Police officers, attorneys and others who have cases pending in First Judicial District Court are seeing sweeping changes in how business is handled.
During the November election, Angela “Spence” Pacheco won the seat for District Attorney that was vacated by Henry Valdez.
During Tuesday night’s county council meeting in White Rock, Police Chief Wayne Torpy introduced Pacheco to councilors and members of the public.
Torpy began the introduction by saying, “The changes Spence has made have been like night and day. She’s instituted a lot of things. The communication we have with the district attorney is excellent.”
Since taking office, Pacheco has made a few changes that have been key in moving cases forward quicker. For one, she has appointed Karen Snell as the deputy district attorney for Los Alamos County.
“Karen is a mature, strong prosecutor,” Pacheco said. “I don’t need to tell her what to do. Sometimes she tells me what to do,” she joked.
Snell replaces A.J. Salazar, who ran against Pacheco for the DA’s seat.
Incidentally, Pacheco asked Salazar and a handful of other attorneys in the First Judicial District Court office, including her other opponent in the race, Joseph CampBell, to voluntarily resign or risk being terminated. Both have since left the DA’s office.
Pacheco has also done away with grand juries in Los Alamos County. She cited the town as being too small to keep the juries secret, as the reason for their termination. “Preliminary hearings would be more beneficial,” Pacheco said.
Los Alamos County Magistrate Judge Pat Casados will handle all the preliminary hearings through her court.
Casados was also present during Tuesday night’s meeting and said, “We’ve had two (preliminary hearings) scheduled so far, but they’ve been canceled. The hearings are open to the public,” she commented. She also invited interested members of the public to her courtroom to witness the hearings when they are held.
In addition, Pacheco said that she felt it would be good practice for police officers to testify during the preliminary hearings.
Pacheco also said that plans to have an office in the county attorney’s office are in the works, as well. She plans to have staff in the office twice a week. “We want to be a part of this community,” Pacheco said.
Following Pacheco’s comments, Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer told Pacheco that her changes were a breath of fresh air. “It’s refreshing to hear that you’re making an effort to help the police department,” he said. Council Chair Michael Wheeler concurred with Wismer. “Los Alamos County has been in need of your services for sometime,” he commented.