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Monday, December 22, 2014

Correia: 'dropped charges justify protest'

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UNM professor David Correia speaks at a vigil for APD shooting victim Armand Martin on May 4. Charges against Correia, stemming from his arrest on June 2, for allegedly assaulting a police officer during a nonviolent sit-in at the office of Mayor Richard Berry, were dropped.

The City of Albuquerque will not pursue charges against UNM Associate Professor David Correia, according to court documents.

Correia was charged with felony assault against an officer after being arrested while participating in a July 2 sit-in protest at Mayor Richard Berry’s office. The protest was in response to the 27 APD shootings since 2010.

Kayla Anderson, public information officer for the Albuquerque District Attorney’s Office, said the charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning charges can be filed in the future.

The District Attorney’s Office is still reviewing whether they plan to refile charges, she said.

The paperwork to forgo filing charges was submitted on Aug. 5, according to court records. However, Correia said neither he nor his attorneys received notification.

Correia said he is pleased that they stopped pursuing charges, but he thinks the District Attorney’s actions prove that there was no evidence to convict him in the first place.

“The truth of the matter is at the end of the day, if they had any evidence to convict me on that, they would be pursuing prosecution,” he said. “They don’t have that and this is acknowledgment that these charges have always been without merit.”

Chris Banks, a local activist who was at the protest, said Correia was unjustly arrested and that charges should never have been pressed against Correia in the first place. The protesters were a peaceful delegation that wanted to speak with the mayor regarding APD violence, he said.

When the group entered the mayor’s office, they were confronted by a plain-clothed officer who initiated contact with Correia while Correia’s held his arms in the air, Banks said.

“Without explaining who he was, he escalated the situation by physically confronting David,” Banks said.

Correia said there is no way to expunge his arrest from his record, but that he is fine with that.

Correia was protesting what he feels has been an abuse of power by Albuquerque police, and the fact that his charges will not be pursued shows that the city recognizes the actions of the officer in this incident were inappropriate, he said

“What the record will show is that we were in the right here, that we were on the right side of justice and the DA’s office and the police department is on the wrong side of justice,” Correia said.

Correia’s colleague Alex Lubin, chair of American studies, said he feels Correia’s actions at the protest were in line with the behavior expected of a university professor. Universities are places that demand critical thinking for difficult questions, and sometimes the answers to those questions require engagement outside of the university, Lubin said.

“Dr. Correia’s actions are consistent with the values of a university and, if anything, show that UNM is a vibrant community of people who deeply care about the subjects they study,” he said.

Lubin said he feels as if Correia’s reputation and the reputation of UNM itself were attacked as a result of the arrest, but that Correia has always remained a positive, active and professional despite those attacks.

“Dr. Correia is an award-winning teacher and a valued member of the American Studies Department,” Lubin said. “I’m very pleased that he no longer has restrictions placed on him as a result of these accusations.”

Correia’s arrest was caught on video and is available for viewing online at dailylobo.com.

Daniel Montaño is a news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.