Attorney: NM officer rejects plea deal in deadly standoff
Lawyers said retired Detective Keith Sandy rejected the offer to plead guilty because the deadly shooting was justified and he did not commit a crime
By Mary Hudetz
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A retired Albuquerque police detective who was charged with second-degree murder in the on-duty shooting death of a homeless camper has turned down a deal that would have called for him to plead guilty to a lesser count, and for a special prosecutor to clear charges against a second officer accused in the case, attorneys said Monday.
Sam Bregman, the attorney for retired Detective Keith Sandy, said his client rejected the offer to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated battery in the shooting of James Boyd because the shooting was justified and Sandy did not commit a crime.
Police video of the shooting shows Boyd, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, gathering his belongings at the end of an hourslong standoff before a flash-bang grenade goes off. Seconds later, a K-9 officer releases his police service dog on Boyd, and then chases after the animal — a fateful move that appeared to prompt the camper to pull two pocket knives and defense attorneys say led Perez and Sandy to shoot.
A jury deadlocked last month on whether to convict Sandy and Perez after a two-week trial, with nine jurors saying they wanted to acquit the men, and three holding out for a guilty verdict. The trial played out amid a national debate about officers' use of deadly force.
"The fact of the matter is this case should not be tried again," Bregman said. "You know they know there's no good-faith basis for moving forward."
Bregman disclosed after a court hearing that his client had been offered the plea deal in a letter last week from special prosecutor Randi McGinn.
At the hearing, District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield decided to schedule a new trial for July. Hadfield also will make a final ruling in January on whether incoming district attorney Raul Torrez, who was elected last week and will take office in January, can prosecute the officers — should he decide to move forward with it and take it to trial.
A judge last year disqualified the current district attorney from prosecuting the case and ordered that a special prosecutor be assigned to it. McGinn, a well-known trial attorney in Albuquerque, agreed to take the case.
Under the plea deal McGinn offered Sandy, she would have cleared charges against Dominique Perez, the other former officer charged with second-degree murder in Boyd's death.
Sandy also would have received no jail time under the deal, Bregman said. But McGinn dispute that claim, saying she only offered to remain silent at Sandy's sentencing hearing had he accepted the offer. Boyd's family still would have had the right to speak at the hearing if they wished.
McGinn said a term of the plea deal was that it be kept confidential — otherwise it would be withdrawn. She also said the rejected plea deal sought to permanently revoke Sandy's law enforcement certification in the state.
Bregman aimed to criticize McGinn's case, saying the proposed plea deal offered proof that she "doesn't have faith in the case" and that the prosecution had become vindictive.
"Justice for James Boyd isn't vindictiveness," McGinn responded.
McGinn presented Sandy to jurors as a detective who was eager to impress other officers when he inserted himself into the hillside standoff with Boyd, who had been camping illegally in the Sandia Mountain foothills when he pulled his knives on the first two officers to approach him the day he was killed.
Jurors also listened to a recording in which Sandy called Boyd a "lunatic" soon after he arrived on the scene and said he would shoot the camper with a stun gun.
Sandy testified that he regretted the remarks. His attorneys depicted him as a well-trained veteran officer who served his community for more than a decade.
The shooting also marked the first time Perez, a SWAT officer, had used his gun. McGinn has made clear that she doesn't believe Perez was responsible for escalating the standoff prior to Boyd's death, but she still faulted him for deciding to shoot Boyd, who was on a hillside virtually surrounded by officers when gunfire erupted.