It will be remembered forever by those who were there as the day a federal court judge told the sleaze what it really was, which is sleaze; the day Albuquerque regained control of is police department; and the day the sleazy edifice of lies built by the Albuquerque Police Department's command staff came crashing down on its sleazy, lying and manipulating inhabitants.
(Photo: Chief of Sleaze: APD Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman.)
It was the day that City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, APD Chief Gorden Eden, Assistant Chief Bob Huntsman and others were exposed in public for what they were: sleazy manipulators who tried to deceive a federal court judge with manipulated evidence, who tried to smear the independent monitor in APD's reform case with that manipulated evidence, and liars who misstated their case to the judge – no who basically lied in court documents and to the judge's face in court.
That day, November 16, 2017, and the judge, U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Brack, should be memorialized and celebrated forever in the city's history. The day should be celebrated as one in which the city regained its freedom and sanity, and Brack as the humble, unassuming, mild-mannered judge who exposed and smote the sleaze with those mightiest of weapons: openness, words and the pen.
It didn't seem like it would ever happen. After more than six hours of testimony in his courtroom Thursday, much of it slamming APD, Brack seemed to do what he has always done in these hearings about APD's lack of progress in the reform process: express mild dissatisfaction with APD, suggest that everybody do better in the future, and thank everyone for their hard work.
After all, this was the judge who threw a barbecue in his courtroom not that long ago to celebrate the fact that APD actually did what it was supposed to do under its settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, never mind that it was about a year late in achieving its goal of actually writing acceptable policies.
And the day was different as well. The independent monitor, James Ginger, had apparently had enough of APD's lies. In past hearings he had gone easy in court on the department even though his written reports savaged APD's command staff.
Not this time, though.
Ginger came out swinging hard and told Brack in no uncertain terms that, three years into the reform process, APD continued to willfully obstruct the reform effort. And then, as always, there was attorney Peter Cubra, who told Brack that APD had violated his orders – court orders – and that he needed to hold the city and APD in contempt of court.
Then there was the coalition of community policing councils from the Northeast Heights who told Brack that APD was ignoring them, even though the CPCs are mandated by the settlement agreement, and how some officers at the department's civilian police academy told them that the initials D-O-J were really a four-letter word.
The ACLU was there as well to tell Brack what appeared obvious to a lot of people: that in attacking Ginger's credibility, APD was trying to smear him and derail the reform process.
And, as if they had emerged from a 1,000-year sleep, four city councilors – four do-nothing city councilors who had previously done nothing about APD's obstructionist tactics – showed up for the hearing. No city councilor had been seen at previous hearings.
When the day's testimony had ended, many in the packed courtroom figured the hearing would end like all the others had.
Ginger had the final word and said he wanted to “clear the air” about the city's allegations that he was biased against APD and the fact that Huntsman had secretly recorded him 20 months ago and used that lapel camera video to try to destroy him.
Brack told Ginger that he should wait for another time. Ginger sat down, and then the mild-mannered judge began to speak. It was business as usual at first, and then he got into the city's case against Ginger and said he was denying the city's motion for an evidentiary hearing on the matter.
People in the courtroom benches sat up.
Then the words of destruction came, not in a torrent, not in a rush of anger, not in anything but a calm and deliberate voice that had simply had enough of APD's and the city's sleaziness. And those words went on and on and on for who knows, 10 minutes, 20 minutes? No one kept track, and the words were so incredible that no one wanted them to end, except, of course, the sleazeoids at the city's table in Brack's courtroom.
Brack stunned the courtroom when he said that Huntsman, APD's master spy, was wrong to have turned on his lapel camera to secretly record Ginger on March 18, 2016 just before a city council meeting. That, Brack said, was almost certainly a violation of the settlement agreement, which says APD officers can use their lapel cameras only for legitimate police purposes.
Brack further amazed the spectators when he noted that APD's motion to discredit Ginger was filed on the eve of when Ginger's sixth report – a report that absolutely ripped the command staff – was to be filed with the court. He amazed the audience when he noted that three city councilors had asked for an audit of Ginger around the same time and noted that Ginger's duties are explicitly detailed in the settlement agreement that APD and the city signed with the DOJ.
By the time Brack said that Huntsman and Hernandez set Ginger up in the video, courtroom spectators were giddy on their insides, but still sitting in stunned silence because they had never heard anything like what they were hearing: a federal court judge – true power and authority in our society – exposing and ripping APD from the bench and in public like it had never been done before by anyone in power.
And by the time Brack said that it was APD and the city that were playing games and trying to discredit the reform process, some in the courtroom were near tears, so happy were they to hear the truth coming from such authority.
When Brack got to the city's triple hearsay affidavit in support of its motion, people were amazed. The judge detailed just how useless the affidavit, which was signed by Eden, was. An anonymous employee from Ginger's office told an unnamed APD employee that Ginger had an ax to grind. The unnamed city employee then told Eden, who promptly put his name to a sworn affidavit.
Brack noted the triple hearsay, and then destroyed Hernandez and Eden by saying that that triple hearsay had "less than zero evidentiary value."
And then Brack revealed the true sleaze of Hernandez, Huntsman, APD Chief Gorden Eden and company. He took apart their motion and revealed how they tried to deceive and trick a federal court judge.
“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 in denying APD's request for a evidentiary hearing on Ginger 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 [in Brack's chambers], all video and/or audio recordings and/or transcripts it has secretly obtained of either the Monitor, the monitoring team, or of this Court.”
It was simple and direct: APD and the city, and that means Eden, Huntsman, Hernandez and company manipulated evidence.
Brack's dismantling of APD's case against Ginger was pure beauty. But when he suggested that he himself might have been recorded by Master Spy Huntsman, some in the courtroom started exclaiming things like, “Holy shit,” and “My god!”
It was unbelievable, and after Brack had finished, spectators filed out of the courtroom, mostly in silence because they were in shock. No one had expected it, and everyone was thrilled that it had happened.
The sleaze had finally been exposed and hammered in court by a federal judge. It was simply magnificent.
Outside the courtroom someone half shouted what was on many people's minds:
“They're not even smart criminals.”
They're not, and God bless Judge Brack for bulldozing their house of sleaze.