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District Judge Riles At Inconsistency In Plea Deals

on September 27, 2017 - 5:16pm

Allan Houle, left, and his attorney Sam Ruyle arrive for a plea hearing Wednesday in the First Judicial Court in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O'Neill/ladailypost.com

 
By MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Daily Post

Sentencing for Allan Houle of Los Alamos under a plea agreement was continued for 30 days Wednesday in First Judicial District Court. Chief Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer expressed concern with the inconsistencies between Houle’s agreement and that of Anthony Knief who was sentenced Monday afternoon in her courtroom.

After Deputy District Attorney Kent Wahlquist presented the details of Houle’s plea agreement, which would have given him at least four years of prison on two counts of trafficking methamphetamine, Judge Marlowe Sommer asked Wahlquist what the distinction was between Houle and Knief who had 20 trafficking charges against him.

Wahlquist told the court that Knief immediately went and started treatment and presented the Court with several documents showing the treatment he was undergoing and the steps he took to address the issue.

“In this case, your honor, although he has no prior convictions he does have a similar prior case where he sold drugs to a confidential informant (CI). At that time, the Los Alamos Police Department did not use recording equipment so the CI had to be a witness,” Wahlquist said. “At first the CI was a cooperating witness but later as the case approached trial in District Court, the CI no longer cooperated and we were unable to proceed.”

Wahlquist went on to say that not only had Houle not taken the steps Knief had taken, but that he actually discovered who the CI was in the case and there was an incident where he was yelling at the CI in front of witnesses.

Houle’s attorney Sam Ruyle told the Court that there was no police report or evidence that Houle had accosted anyone.

After Houle pleaded guilty to two counts of trafficking methamphetamine, Wahlquist said the was prepared to argue that the Court sentence Houle to four years of incarceration so that he could get treatment but that he recommended remanding Houle to custody for a 60-day diagnostic evaluation so that his “full issues” could be understood as well as how to address those needs.

“This is not the first time the defendant has been in trouble with the law. Back in 2009 he went through the district attorney’s pre-prosecution diversion program for domestic violence. Something happened there,” Wahlquist said. “In 2014, he sold drugs to a CI. At that time, the police department did not work with me, they did not have the correct equipment. They sent the CI into the house where the defendant was, an exchange took place, then the CI came out and said it was the defendant, making that CI a necessary witness.”

“And here we are again with the defendant giving more drugs to a confidential informant and this time the two confrontations with the CI were recorded. Based on those exchanges, the police department executed a search of his residence where they found several items of drug paraphernalia showing that he does have a drug problem,” he said.

Wahlquist went on to say that he had three witness statements on the alleged incident when Houle yelled at the CI.

“We were waiting to see if the defendant would accept this plea before proceeding on this intimidation charge. I think now that he has accepted this plea at some point he’s going to be on probation whether he goes to the Department of Corrections first or gets evaluated first, at some point we will address the issues Mr. Houle has. The D.A.’s office is telling the police department we’re not proceeding with that charge but it did happen,” he said.

Wahlquist said the plea agreement would in some form address Houle’s issues. He argued that a four-year sentence in the Department of Corrections for a non-violent felony would mean Houle could, with good time, be out in two years, giving him an opportunity to avail of treatment there.

“I want him in the Department of Corrections where he won’t be causing trouble for himself,” he said.

Ruyle said the State is exactly right in their assessment of the drug-related issue. He said Houle has problems with drugs but that in their estimation, sending him to prison was only going to exacerbate those problems. He asked the Court to order a pre-sentence report through Adult Parole and Probation so that the Court could be adequately informed with what’s going on with Houle.

“He’s been on pre-trial services up in Los Alamos with no violations and he is going to NA and AA meetings,” Ruyle said. “He got caught up in the wrong crowd and he wants to change his life. I think putting him in the Department of Corrections is not the right answer.”

Ruehl asked for a pre-sentence evaluation followed by either a term of intense outpatient or inpatient evaluation.

Judge Marlowe Sommer said what the Court is really stuck on is the inconsistency between this plea and the plea that was given to Knief.

“Mr. Knief faced 30 counts of trafficking LSD, cocaine and other drugs and because he did treatment and had no prior convictions and didn’t have an alleged verbal altercation with a CI, he was offered and given a conditional discharge,” Judge Marlowe Sommer said. “This individual, because he didn’t go to treatment and because he has a domestic violence case and was yelling at a CI, the State is asking for four years in the penitentiary. I can’t wrap my head around the clear divergence before the court. On looking at his history, there is no conviction on the battery/domestic violence back in 2009 - eight years ago, a trafficking case that was not prosecuted so he wasn’t convicted of anything – four years ago.”

Judge Marlowe Sommer said that because Houle didn’t demonstrate treatment like Knief and because he yelled at a CI, Houle is being asked to go to prison. She said she was not going to sentence him until after receiving a pre-sentence report from probation. She ordered Houle to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and told him he could only leave his home for work, support meetings and medical treatment.


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