By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Harding County Magistrate Judge Karen Mitchell has issued a contempt of court citation against Tenth Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose in a Tucumcari Magistrate Court case in which Mitchell is the designate magistrate judge.
A hearing on the citation is set for 9 a.m., May 1in the Quay County Magistrate courtroom, 122 W. Center St., Tucumcari.
According to the citation, Rose instructed law enforcement personnel not to serve bench warrants that Mitchell had ordered against Kevin Vance Stacy, who was convicted by a jury on one count of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and pleaded guilty to a second count in 2007.
Rose denied instructing law enforcement officers not to serve the warrants but said he did advise police on the conditions of Stacy’s first conviction and his current ill health.
Stacy was released to a third-party custodian after that hearing, after posting a $10,000 appearance bond, according to court records.
“I look forward to clearing this issue up with Judge Karen Mitchell, who is a fine judge and is simply doing her job,” Rose said. “When these issues arise they should be dealt with in an open, honest and professional manner.”
Rose said he became aware of Stacy’s case through a phone call from Stacy’s parents in San Jon.
“They told me that their son Vance was very ill and believed to be dying,” Rose said. “They wanted to bring him home to San Jon but knew that he had a misdemeanor DWI warrant out of magistrate court. I told them that I would look into the case and I did so.”
Rose found that in 2008, Vance was convicted of DWI by a jury in one case but picked up another DWI while the first case was still pending. Vance did not appear for the final imposition of sentence and a warrant was issued for his arrest that was valid for New Mexico only.
In the jury trial of Stacy’s first DUI conviction, Rose said, he was represented by attorney Tony Romo. Romo resigned from practicing law after being suspended in May 2008 for failing to respond to the state’s legal disciplinary board on multiple complaints, according to Andrea Henckel, a legal assistant for the Disciplinary Board of the New Mexico Supreme Court. The failure to respond resulted in a finding of contempt of court against Romo.
Rose said Romo’s suspension resulted from providing inadequate legal defense for his clients and calls into question many convictions of Romo’s clients. Rose said he is looking into Stacy’s first conviction based on Romo’s record, and on preliminary examination, he said, it appears Romo’s defense in Stacy’s first case was inadequate.
Rose also said that Stacy’s current medical condition would obligate the county to pay huge medical costs if Stacy was incarcerated. Rose said this information was considered in the April 10 hearing in which statements were made that led to Mitchell’s contempt citation against Rose.
Mitchell issued “post-adjudication warrants” against Stacy on April 4. Multiple warrants have been issued against Stacy since April 2008, and he had failed to appear in court, and he could not be located.
Rose said Stacy had returned to the area in recent months and immediately contacted law enforcement upon his return. Rose said Stacy has hired an attorney to represent him on Rose’s advice.
Rose said that Stacy has maintained steady employment and a clean police record since 2008, when he his failures to appear in court were noted. Rose said Stacy moved to Nevada, where he found work in a gold mine.
While Rose said he did not “direct” law enforcement officers to avoid arresting Stacy, he said he did advise them that Stacey hd returned to Quay County and told them about Stacy’s health condition and the issues surrounding his first conviction.
“My intent was to relay Mr. Stacey’s voluntary notice…of his coming back to New Mexico to law enforcement” Rose said, “and relay my request to them that if they decided to actively attempt to execute the warrant they allow him the courtesy of voluntary surrender and allow him to bring medications with him.”
Rose said he understood that Stacey would be arrested if he came into contact with any law enforcement. Stacy faces a sentencing hearing on May 12, court records show.
As District Attorney I believe I have a duty to ensure the fair execution of our criminal laws which includes devoting much of my time advocating tough penalties for deserving defendants but also devoting much of my time advocating for the protection of defendants constitutional rights and otherwise ensure that the people I am prosecuting are treated fairly at every stage of the criminal proceeding. Because I am holding public office and represent the fine people of this District, I believe the public has a right to hear directly from me on this topic.
I became aware of the case of Kevin Vance Stacy a few months back by receiving phone calls from the Stacy family who reside in San Jon. They told me that their son Vance was very ill and believed to be dying from what they believed to be cancer from working for the past several years in a gold mine in Nevada. They wanted to bring him home to San Jon but knew that he had a misdemeanor DWI warrant out of magistrate court. I told them that I would look into the case and I did so. I found that in 2008 that Vance was convicted of DWI in one case and then picked up another DWI while the first case was still pending and he was convicted of that case after appeals were filed in both cases, Vance did not appear for the final imposition of sentence and a warrant was issued for his arrest that was valid for New Mexico only.
A few weeks after hearing from the Stacey family, I received a call from Vance to inform me that he was back in San Jon. He told me about his severe medical condition, told me about the problems he had with his court appointed attorney in the 2008 DWI cases and wanted to assure me that he wanted to do whatever it took to clear up his legal issues which included turning himself into custody if needed. I learned that Vance was represented by former attorney Tony Romo who was disbarred from practicing law in 2008 or shortly thereafter for routinely providing inadequate representation to criminal defendants. In fact, our office over the past few years have been involved in a number of cases in which the District Court has vacated convictions in which Tony Romo was the defense attorney for horrific failures in his representation.
I advised Vance Stacey that he needed to hire an attorney to represent him and to assist him in filing appropriate petitions in the District Court. Vance did so and I have been working with his attorney over the past few months on these issues.
While I have not made a final determination and need to clarify some facts, at this point, it does appear that Mr. Stacey was not adequately represented by counsel on the first DWI trial. If that is true, justice would mandate that his first conviction be vacated and that he be granted a new trial. Additionally, because the first conviction clearly influenced his guilty plea and sentence to a DWI (second offense) in the second case, justice may require a new sentencing hearing or even the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial on that case as well.
Additionally, I have been taking into consideration the following facts to drive my decisions in this case:
- Since 2008 Mr. Stacey has been gainfully employed and has committed no violations of the law.
- Mr. Stacey and his family took the initiative to contact law enforcement immediately upon his return to New Mexico for the purpose of dealing with his criminal case here. Important to note is that Mr. Stacey could have avoided any consequences to his actions by simply not returning to New Mexico or coming to New Mexico without any notice to law enforcement.
- Since his return to New Mexico, Mr. Stacey has been very active in church and otherwise living his life in a very mature, clean and law abiding fashion.
Most important to me has been the medical needs of Mr. Stacey. I certainly never want to ignore the fact that people we chose to incarcerate may die or their illness become life threatening due to the conditions of the jail or the adequacy of medical treatment. In addition, if Mr. Stacey was incarcerated the County would be liable for all of the costs of his medications and medical care which could be tens of thousands of dollars. These issues are considered on a daily basis by our office and the courts in determining whether a person should be detained or continue to be detained.
Mr. Stacey was aware that he would be arrested at anytime that he had contact with law enforcement. That day occurred approximately two weeks ago when Mr. Stacey was at the local DMV office and had contact with a Logan Police officer. The officer did call me upon his arrest and we also contacted the court. It was decided that Mr. Stacey would be arrested, taken to the detention center and that we would have an expedited hearing to determine whether he should be continued to be detained or released pending the above mentioned legal issues surrounding his case. At the hearing the above mentioned issues were addressed and Judge Karen Mitchell found that Mr. Stacey should be released pending future hearings.
Despite the claim in the order to show cause, I have never “directed” any law enforcement officer to not execute the warrant for arrest on Mr. Stacey. This appears to be a misunderstanding or miscommunication in the conversation between Judge Karen Mitchell and myself. What I did was contact local law enforcement to advise them that Mr. Stacey was in fact back in this jurisdiction and advised them of the health condition of Mr. Stacey and the legal issues that I was looking into regarding his convictions. My intent was to relay Mr. Stacey’s voluntary notice he gave to me of his coming back to New Mexico to law enforcement and relay my request to them that if they decided to actively attempt to execute the warrant that they allow him the courtesy of voluntary surrender with medications with him. It was relayed to me that while there would be no active “manhunt” for Mr. Stacey, it was generally understood that Mr. Stacey would be arrested if he came into contact with any law enforcement. Thus treating Mr. Stacey the same as virtually any other person with active arrest warrants.
I look forward to clearing this issue up with Judge Karen Mitchell who is a fine judge and is simply doing her job and doing it in the correct way of ensuring the integrity of our great justice system. When these issues arise they should be dealt with in an open, honest and professional manner.