A district court judge is contemplating whether she will allow a grand jury to investigate alleged animal cruelty at the animal control shelter in Los Lunas.
District Court Judge Camille Martinez-Olguin announced Tuesday afternoon she will review the case and rule at a later time. Martinez-Olguin said she needs time to research case law about whether the language in a petition asking for the grand jury investigation properly indicates the jurisdiction of the allegations.
“On the face of this petition, it doesn’t point to any geographical jurisdiction,” Martinez-Olguin said.
Attorney Laura Boyett, who is representing Marcy Britton, the animal rights activist who initiated the petition, said all the evidence which will be presented to the grand jury are cases in Valencia County.
“I don’t think you will find anyone who signed this petition who thought the investigation would go beyond Valencia County,” Boyett told the judge Tuesday. “I really feel you have enough here to make a ruling today.”
Boyett said 36 witnesses are willing to testify in front of a grand jury about different cases that happened within Valencia County and at the shelter. Four people testified Tuesday they witnessed numerous counts of abuse cases at the shelter and in Valencia County.
Marguarite Bowers, a resident of Belen and the president of a local animal humane organization, told the court she has witnessed cruelty cases in Valencia County on a daily basis for the past 10 years. Britton also testified she has observed abuse cases on and off for the past 10 years.
Olguin ruled that the investigation should not be directed at County Commissioner Alicia Aguilar. When Britton filed the petition, it stated she hoped a special prosecutor would investigate and indict Aguilar for allegedly engaging in acts of misconduct or abuse in her authority as commission chair.
Aguilar was chairperson of the county commission at the time of the petition, but no longer is.
After the hearing, Aguilar said “I’m not a part of it any more, and I’m very happy about it. I had to hire my own private attorney because the county wouldn’t provide me with legal defense,” she said. “He defended me well, my name has been removed, and all I can say is that I’m happy about that.”
Britton has said she hopes a grand jury will investigate her claims of criminal animal cruelty practices and inept cruelty investigations at the animal shelter in Los Lunas. She says the housing of animals at the shelter is “inhumane” and that animal control officers lack proper training.
“I’m not a part of it any more and I’m very happy about it. I had to hire my own private attorney because the county wouldn’t provide me with legal defense.”
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.