Judge Brack Says APD Tried To Smear The Independent Monitor In order To Get Rid Of Him
Says APD Manipulated Video Evidence
Asst. Chief Huntsman Was Wrong to Secretly Record The Independent Monitor
Says APD Set The Monitor Up And Blindsided Him
The city and APD tried to throw a hand grenade into the police reform process in the final days of Mayor Richard Berry's administration by accusing the independent monitor in the reform effort of being biased against the department
On late Thursday afternoon, the federal court judge in the case responded by dropping an atomic bomb on the city, APD and assistant police chief Robert Huntsman.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack accused Huntsman and the city of trying to smear and discredit the independent monitor, James Ginger, in an attempt to discredit the reform process itself.
(Photo: Judge Robert Brack hammered APD)
In what amounted to an unprecedented and unrelenting public dress-down, Brack said in open court, and in front of Huntsman, APD Chief Gorden Eden and City Attorney Jessica Hernandez that the city, APD and Huntsman tried to deceive him, manipulated evidence and set up Ginger in an attempt to discredit him.
And, in making a secret lapel camera recording of Ginger on March 18, 2016, Huntsman apparently violated the reform settlement agreement the city signed with the U.S. Department of Justice, Brack said.
In ripping the city and APD, Brack denied the city's request for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Ginger was biased against APD.
Brack said the city's behavior amounted to an “attempt to undermine and intimidate the monitor,” and added that he thought the city was playing a political game in the situation. “This game,” Brack said, “is not acceptable.”
In saying that the city tried to deceive the court, Brack pointed to the Oct. 31 motion filed by the city in which it said the secret video of Ginger that Huntsman made with his lapel camera was nine minutes long. The transcript of the video the city filed with the court represented nine minutes of video, Brack said.
But the city included the entire video with the motion, and it was 14 minutes long. The first five minutes of the conversation between Ginger and City Attorney Jessica Hernandez were pleasant and presented no reason for Huntsman to turn on his lapel camera, Brack said.
Brack said that the city tried to manipulate the situation by deleting the first five minutes out of its transcript of Huntsman's video
“The Court finds that the manner in which the City framed the March 18, 2016 meeting comes dangerously close to obstruction of this reform process,” Brack's order said. “ In his affidavit, Assistant Chief Huntsman swears that he turned on his on-body camera because of Dr. Ginger’s 'escalating behavior.' The DVD of the 2016 meeting that the City produced to the court of public opinion via YouTube and the Albuquerque Journal, which is just shy of nine minutes, could be spun in support of Assistant Chief Huntsman’s statement.
“The City produced a different video, however, to the Court. The official video exhibit is approximately 14 minutes long, with the five additional minutes on the front end. It is apparent why the City chose to cut these additional five minutes—they reflect an atmosphere of cordial conversation. There is certainly no evidence of irritation or 'escalating behavior' from Dr. Ginger that would have concerned Assistant Chief Huntsman.
“The discrepancy between these two versions of the secret recording is the most damning evidence that the City and APD leadership has manipulated the video to cast Dr. Ginger in a light that allegedly demonstrates bias or prejudice. Again, the Court finds the last nine minutes are insufficient to show bias or prejudice, much less the full 14 minutes.
“Moreover, if this video is not in direct contravention of paragraph 229 of the CASA, it is plainly not in keeping with the spirit of that paragraph, which restricts the use of lapel cams to official law enforcement duties.
"The City’s decision to secretly record the Monitor in order to blindside him later is unacceptable. This type of conduct chills the possibility of candid communication in the future and erodes trust. To ensure that the City has not surreptitiously recorded other meetings for future use, the Court orders the City to immediately produce, in camera, all video and/or audio recordings and/or transcripts it has secretly obtained of either the Monitor, the monitoring team, or of this Court.”
Brack said he wasn't prepared Thursday to rule on whether the city of APD should be held in contempt of court, but he ordered DOJ attorneys to prepare a list of what things, if any, he could find the city in contempt of.
In ripping the city and APD for more than 10 minutes in open court, Brack said that Ginger was frustrated with APD's slow progress on the reform effort.
In its motion in which it alleged that Ginger was biased against APD, the city noted that Ginger said that the reform effort was a "game."
But Brack said Ginger was using everyday language and that the real political game in the situation was being played by the city.
"The city is the one that is playing games," Brack said, while noting that the city's motion was filed on the eve of the filing of Ginger's sixth report and of a mayoral election in the city. He also blasted the city for withholding the video for 20 months.