Fire chief acquitted of charges stemming from arrest at scene of March blaze

Posted: July 2, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Eddie Velarde, second from left facing camera, talks with volunteer firefighters on March 29, the day he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at the scene of a fire in northern New Mexico. (Image courtesy KOB-TV)

Eddie Velarde, the chief of the Velarde Volunteer Fire Department, was in court Friday facing charges of obstructing a cop, disorderly conduct and concealing his identity at the scene of a March brush fire near some homes in Lyden.

Long story short, he was found not guilty without even having to present a case as Rio Arriba County Magistrate Judge Joseph Madrid granted a diricted verdict of not guilty to defense attorney Diego Zamora after the prosecution rested its case.

From Saturday’s article in The New Mexican:

Velarde’s attorney, Diego Zamora, in June served notice to Rio Arriba County that he may file suit on behalf of Velarde for wrongful arrest.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Lt. Adam Archuleta on March 29 arrested Velarde, 54, at the scene of a small brush fire in Lyden, in which Velarde’s department was the lead agency working the blaze. According to police reports, Archuleta arrested Velarde because he was creating general hysteria at the scene that was doing more harm than good.

After Archuleta presented the case Friday to Rio Arriba County Magistrate Joseph Madrid, attorney Zamora requested and received a directed verdict of not guilty without having to call as witnesses Velarde or any one of numerous firefighters whom the lawyer says would have testified they were at the scene of the March fire and saw their chief do nothing wrong.

In the tort claim notice he filed last month with Rio Arriba County, Zamora wrote that his client “sustained compensable injuries with resulting damages for which Rio Arriba County is vicariously liable.”

Velarde helped work the front lines of the Las Conchas fire this week and would have been there Friday morning had he not had to be in court.

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