Innocent Man Spent 10 Months In Jail
APD Detective Jodi Gonterman Alleged Have Given False Testimony To A Grand Jury
An Albuquerque man who spent 10 months in jail for a murder he didn’t commit has sued the Albuquerque Police detective who put him behind bars, alleging she manufactured a case against him by coercing three witnesses to implicate him and then misled a judge and falsely testified to a grand jury about the case.
The lawsuit, filed in state District Court by Christopher Cruz, 23, alleged that APD Det. Jodi Gonterman “fabricated” information to obtain an arrest warrant against Cruz for the June 26, 2015 murder of Jaydon Chavez-Silver. She then testified to that false information to a grand jury that indicted Cruz, the lawsuit said, adding that Gonterman knew that Cruz had an alibi and that she failed to disclose it to grand jury.
“At the time she [Gonterman] secured the indictment she knew that there was no physical or scientific evidence linking Chris to the murder,” said the lawsuit, which was filed on May 18. “She knew that Chris had an alibi, which she failed to investigate and failed to disclose to the grand jury.
“And she knew the witnesses she had coerced and threatened were unreliable and had provided false statements.”
Two other men have now been sentenced in Chavez-Silver’s murder and a third is set to go to trial in the fall.
Cruz and another man, Donovan Maez, were charged with Chavez-Silver’s murder and they both spent 10 months in jail before being released after the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office dropped the charges against them in August 2016.
The three men who initially implicated Cruz later recanted their stories “and indicated they lied out of fear and intimidation to make their stories more believable to Det. Gonterman,” the lawsuit said. “Two of the witnesses she coerced to implicate Chris did not have firsthand knowledge of events, which Gonterman knew, and gave multiple conflicting stories, which Gonterman did not bother to investigate or corroborate before having Chris arrested and charged with murder.
“A third witness is one of the real perpetrators of Jaydon’s murder and has now accepted responsibility for his role in the killing.”
The lawsuit said that Cruz and Maez were at a friend’s house paying video games when Chavez-Silver was killed around 10 p.m. in a house at 1101 Nakomis NE.
The lawsuit wasn’t the first time that Gonterman had been accused of fabricating a case against Cruz and Donovan Maez. Last December, Dennis Maez, Donovan’s grandfather, filed a 23-page complaint against Gonterman with the Civilian Police Oversight Agency. The complaint, which is still pending, alleged that Gonterman might have committed perjury, and threatened and coaxed witnesses to provide false testimony against his grandson and Cruz.
“Defense attorneys and investigators determined that Det. Gonterman supplied witnesses with a narrative and through intimidation coerced, and forced, by way of threats, witnesses to provide the false information in the narrative supplied by Det. Gonterman for the purpose of implicating Maez and Cruz,” Dennis Maez’s complaint said. “Det. Gonterman basically threatened witnesses that if they did not acquiesce and tell her what she wanted to hear, and demanded to hear, she would charge the witnesses as conspirators in the murder of Chavez-Silver.”
An APD spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an ABQ Free Press request for comment on Cruz’s lawsuit.