Charges of promoting prostitution, conspiracy and tampering with evidence, brought against former UNM president and professor emeritus F. Chris Garcia in July, were dropped until further notice.
According to an Albuquerque Police Department investigation, Garcia was involved in an online prostitution ring called Southwest Companions and used the Internet handle “Burque Pops.”
According to Bernalillo County Court records, the findings for each of the charges were, as of Aug. 24, “nolle prosequi,” meaning “do not prosecute,” which refers to a prosecutor’s application to drop criminal charges before a trial.
Garcia’s defense attorney, David Serna, said the District Attorney’s office will most likely re-file charges at a later date. Garcia is not in police custody and has no conditions of release, he said.
“Once the (District Attorney)’s office files a nolle prosequi, then there’s no pending case against him, and if there’s no pending case against him, then there’s no conditions of release or restrictions or anything like that,” Serna said.
Serna said the move is a common one.
“They do that in just about every felony case because they have a big backlog of cases and they (can’t) get to them all,” he said.
Garcia’s hearing before a grand jury was also canceled on short notice, something Serna said is less common than filing a nolle prosequi. He said there are any number of reasons a hearing can be canceled, and that he is unsure whether this particular case was canceled because of anything having to do with the case itself.
“It can be for reasons that have nothing to do with the strength of the case, but it can also be for reasons like the prosecution has thought, ‘You know, these are not exactly the strongest charges. Maybe we’ll go back to the drawing board and dream up another way to charge him with something else it might be easier to convict him on,’” he said.
Kayla Anderson, public information officer for the District Attorney’s Office, said the reason the hearing was canceled is not public record. She said APD and her office need to get all of the evidence in order before the DA can re-file the charges against Garcia.
“If the grand jury believes there is enough evidence for an indictment, then of course our proceedings are public record,” she said. “Then, however things move forward, that’s when there’s a lot of cooperation between our office and the defense.”
She said the prosecution has 60 days from the day of an arraignment to move forward with an indictment, unless it were to “nolle” the charges. After charges are “nolled,” the DA’s office has an unlimited amount of time to re-file.
According to APD, Garcia was involved in an online prostitution ring, and Anderson said charges are often “nolled” when officials have computer records to go through because this can be a time-consuming process.
“Right now there’s just so much discovery and so much evidence to sort through,” she said. “It’s just taking time for the investigation.”