Ex-cop to be sentenced for obstruction

Brad Ahrensfield could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after tipping off friend

By Jeff Proctor
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Albuquerque police Officer Brad Ahrensfield now has a sentencing date, nearly two years and two trials after he tipped off a close friend who was the target of a federal narcotics and stolen merchandise investigation.

Sentencing is set for Aug. 31 before U.S. District Judge James Parker. Ahrensfield could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the obstruction of justice charge a jury convicted him of Dec. 20.

The date was set Wednesday, the day after Parker denied a motion from Ahrensfield's attorney, Jason Bowles, to dismiss the obstruction charge for insufficient evidence.

"It is not that Ahrensfield's conduct merely interfered with or influenced an investigation, but that Ahrensfield's conduct interfered with an investigation in such a significant manner that the investigation, and therefore the grand jury proceedings that would have resulted from that investigation, had to be terminated," Parker wrote in his 24-page order denying Bowles' motion.

"And, given Ahrensfield's knowledge of the steps that had already been taken in the investigation and Ahrensfield's knowledge that such cases are typically referred to the grand jury, Ahrensfield had knowledge that his actions were likely to affect a federal proceeding."

A local and federal law enforcement task force began investigating The Car Shop, where Ahrensfield's son worked, in September 2009 after getting tips that drugs and stolen goods were being trafficked out of the shop. A confidential informant bought drugs from one of the shop's mechanics on three occasions, according to authorities.

Even though Ahrensfield was not involved in the investigation, he learned about it from APD Detective Ron Olivas and told Shawn Bryan, the shop's owner, about it. Bryan, a military buddy of Ahrensfield's, has not been charged.

Authorities said Ahrensfield, who was with APD for 15 years, derailed the investigation, which did not result in any charges.

In April 2010, Ahrensfield was acquitted of lying to the FBI, and a jury hung on the charge of obstruction of justice. The December trial ended with a conviction on the obstruction charge.

Bowles, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, has sought in a series of motions to either get his client's indictment dismissed outright or at least secure a new trial.

Among them was a motion to dismiss the charge on the grounds that prosecutors suppressed evidence - including allegations that detailed information about the investigation came to Bryan through a series of text messages sent to Bryan's wife, Erika Bryan, by the wife of Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White, who was then the Bernalillo County sheriff - that would have been favorable to Ahrensfield and material to the case.

In his order denying that motion, Parker ruled that prosecutors did in fact suppress evidence that could have been favorable to Ahrensfield, but that it wasn't material and wouldn't likely have changed the jury's decision.

Parker wrote in at least two of his opinions that the Ahrensfield case was a tricky one.
"Although the evidence in this case presents somewhat of a close call, the court concludes that in viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the evidence adduced during the government's case-in-chief is sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the obstruction of justice charge," he wrote in Tuesday's order.

Copyright 2011 Albuquerque Journal

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