“Framing these two is something that ought to be scrutinized. Instead we're told there's nothing here to see, move along. How do you frame innocent people for murder unless you have made a horrible mistake?” said attorney John Day
An Albuquerque police detective whose investigation sent two young men to jail for 10 months for a murder they didn’t commit has been exonerated of any wrongdoing in the case by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency.
The CPOA said that Detective Jodi Gonterman did nothing wrong in the investigation into the June 26, 2015 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver. As a result of Gonterman’s investigation, Christopher Cruz, then 21, and Donovan Maez, then 18, were charged with the murder. The two spent 10 months in jail until the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office dropped the charges against them in August of 2016.
The CPOA began its investigation in December of 2016 after Donovan Maez’s grandfather, Dennis Maez, filed a complaint with the agency alleging that Gonterman might have committed perjury, and threatened and coaxed witnesses to provide false testimony against his grandson and Cruz.
But the CPOA’s investigation said that Gonterman acted professionally in her investigation and did not threaten or coerce witnesses.
“The evidence showed that Det. G conducted a thorough and professional homicide investigation and that based on the information available to her at the time, she came to a logical conclusion that resulted in the arrests of Maez and Cruz,” the CPOA said in its report on the investigation.
“The evidence showed that Det. G was professional and thorough throughout this investigation.”
The CPOA sent its conclusions in a letter to Dennis Maez on Wednesday morning. He shared the letter with the ABQ Free Press.
The CPOA’s investigation said that some of the witnesses that Gonterman interviewed in the case implicated Donovan Maez and that they offered up the information voluntarily. The report also said that Gonterman did not fabricate information about the case as Dennis Maez had alleged.
Dennis Maez said he wasn’t surprised with the COPA’s conclusion.
“It’s nothing we did not expect, especially since there is pending litigation against the detective,” Dennis Maez told ABQ Free Press.
It was Dennis Maez, a former Albuquerque police officer and retired U.S. Secret Service agent, and private investigator Mauric Moya, who went to the DA’s office last year with their conclusions about what they said was Gonterman’s flawed investigation. The two had spent hundreds of hours reviewing Gonterman’s notes and taped interviews with witnesses in the case. It was shortly after they met with officials from the DA’s office that the agency dropped the charges against Donovan Maez and Cruz.
The CPOA’s decision “speaks for itself,” Dennis Maez said. “The DA’s office dropping the charges was the result of one meeting we had with them when we brought this information to their attention. The complaint I sent to the CPOA was nothing different than what I sent to the DA’s office.”
Donovan Maez’s former lawyer, John Day, said Gonterman clearly “framed” the two and that the COPA’s decision raises questions about its legitimacy.
“This is a case where the police investigators framed two innocent men and there is no question that they spent 10 months in jail for a murder they did not commit,” Day said. “It is obvious to anyone that has followed this case that this was a massive violation of policy and these young men’s constitutional rights. It raises questions about how viable this system is. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that these two got screwed by the police.
“Framing these two is something that ought to be scrutinized. Instead we’re told there’s nothing here to see, move along. How do you frame innocent people for murder unless you have made a horrible mistake?”
In May, Cruz filed a lawsuit against Gonterman alleging that she “fabricated” information to obtain an arrest warrant against Cruz for the Chavez-Silver murder. 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.”
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