Abuse sus­pects will stay in jail

AG’s Of­fice claims pair are dan­ger­ous

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY KATY BARNITZ

Find­ing that they had shown a “com­plete dis­re­gard” for the well-be­ing of a 7-year-old girl and her two sib­lings, an Al­bu­querque judge on Tues­day ruled that Teri Sanchez and James Ste­wart will re­main in jail as they await trial.

State District Judge Alisa Hart’s de­ci­sion came af­ter an hours­long hear­ing spread over three days, dur­ing which the state At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice sought to prove that Sanchez and Ste­wart pose such a dan­ger to the com­mu­nity that they should be de­tained.

“The al­leged of­fenses against James Ste­wart are so morally rep­re­hen­si­ble it brings into ques­tion de­fen­dant Ste­wart’s

will­ing­ness or ca­pa­bil­ity to fol­low the most ba­sic mores,” Hart said.

Ste­wart is charged with hu­man traf­fick­ing, pro­mot­ing pros­ti­tu­tion, crim­i­nal sex­ual con­tact of a mi­nor and other crimes, while Sanchez is charged with child abuse and con­tribut­ing to the delin­quency of a mi­nor.

Pub­lic safety as­sess­ments rec­om­mended re­leas­ing both de­fen­dants. In Sanchez’s case, with no con­di­tions of re­lease, and in Ste­wart’s case, with medium-level court-or­dered su­per­vi­sion. Those as­sess­ments are based largely on past con­vic­tions and pend­ing crim­i­nal cases.

Hart dis­agreed with the as­sess­ments and said that the con­trol Ste­wart ex­erted over Sanchez, whom one wit­ness said has been di­ag­nosed with fe­tal al­co­hol syn­drome and has an ex­tremely low IQ, be­tween 65 and 68, was among the rea­sons she felt Sanchez must also stay in cus­tody.

“It’s my be­lief that Mr. Ste­wart con­trols Ms. Sanchez,” Hart said. “And if she is re­leased and he is de­tained, I still be­lieve that he will have con­trol over her, he will have a means to gain ac­cess and in­flu­ence over the chil­dren.”

Pub­lic de­fender Dou­glas Wil­ber ar­gued that Sanchez be­longs in treat­ment and said the judge’s de­ci­sion was a dis­ap­point­ment. Craig Acorn, who is also rep­re­sent­ing Sanchez, said af­ter the hear­ing that his client is a “vic­tim of these cir­cum­stances” who doesn’t be­long be­hind bars.

“Lock­ing up a per­son in a cage doesn’t help any­body, and it es­pe­cially doesn’t help any­body who is as dis­abled as Ms. Sanchez is. I think it just makes them much, much worse,” Acorn said. “… I think it’s bar­baric.”

Ste­wart’s de­fense at­tor­ney, Stephanie Gul­ley, ques­tioned who was in dan­ger if he was re­leased, and she ar­gued that the case was a po­lit­i­cal move by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Hec­tor Balderas. She said Ste­wart had pre­vi­ously per­formed well on pro­ba­tion, and if re­leased would stay out of trou­ble and find work. The al­leged crimes were “atro­cious on pa­per,” but some court doc­u­ments in the case con­tained “ma­jor flaws,” she said.

All three chil­dren are now in the cus­tody of the state Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies De­part­ment.

Be­fore an­nounc­ing her de­ci­sion, Hart read a list of con­cern­ing al­le­ga­tions re­counted by wit­nesses.

A teacher said the 7-year-old girl came to school in blood­stained un­der­wear, and an­other school staff mem­ber said she had hick­eys on her neck and chest. Sanchez hit the girl in the face, used her to pan­han­dle and dressed her up for “se­cret par­ties with strip­pers,” Hart said, sum­ma­riz­ing tes­ti­mony. And Ste­wart, she said, again sum­ma­riz­ing tes­ti­mony, had forced the child to “touch his friends in a sex­ual man­ner in ex­change for drugs and para­pher­na­lia,” and touched her in a way that made her un­com­fort­able.

Pros­e­cu­tors say the cou­ple had ties to Cor­nelius Gal­loway, who is fac­ing fed­eral traf­fick­ing charges.

“(She) is so fa­mil­iar with this man, she calls him Un­cle Chip,” Hart said of the 7-year-old girl.

Dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments, pros­e­cu­tors re­counted wit­ness state­ments that Sanchez and Ste­wart al­lowed the girl to stay with Gal­loway for “days at a time,” and she re­turned from those vis­its with swollen gen­i­tals.

James Ste­wart

Teri Sanchez


Judge Alisa Hart reads the con­cern­ing al­le­ga­tions against Teri Sanchez and James Ste­wart that fac­tored into her de­ci­sion to de­tain them. Sanchez and Ste­wart are ac­cused of abus­ing a 7-year-old girl.

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