John Paul Chavez, top in 2011 with defense attorney Val Whitley, and below in 2003 with defense attorney Hugh Dangler. (The New Mexican file photos)

KRQE-TV’s investigative arm, the On Special Assignment team, has a scathing story on the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office (Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties) and their handling of DWI cases.

Producer Jason Auslander, the former crime reporter at The New Mexican, takes a look at so many of the DWI cases in the past year or so that have slipped through the cracks in the district.

The most notable of the “poster boys” of the DWI problem that highlight the KRQE piece is the case of John Paul Chavez, who has about a dozen DWI arrests through the years and I broke the story about his latest DWI arrest in December 2010 and of his getting that case dismissed last summer because of prosecutor error.

Chavez is the man who in 2002 slammed into Elly Cote near the Santa Fe Plaza, leaving her in a coma and forever changing her life and that of her husband, Michael Cote. I covered the case in 2002 when I was first at The New Mexican and was sincerely hurt when I had tracked them down last year and told them first that Chavez, who did a long stint in prison for that crash, was not only out of prison, but had been charged again with DWI and then later had that case dismissed for an error of the DA’s Office.

The KRQE piece from Wednesday is an interesting and frustrating read that also touches on the struggle and finger pointing between the DAs office and the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office. Here are the first five graphs of the text version of KRQE’s story (CLICK HERE to read the entire piece and/or watch the video of what they broadcast on air) that give you a pretty good idea of the tone of the piece:

Call them the poster boys for New Mexico’s drinking and driving problem.

Rodney Mascarenas, 55, and Frank Anchondo, 53, have each been arrested 11 times for DWI, according to court documents and other records.

Police have arrested Anthony Rodriguez, 44, eight times for drunken driving. And Kevin Kelly, 52, has been caught seven times.

That’s a total of 37 arrests in the last quarter century for just those four men

But a love of alcohol and automobiles isn’t the only thing that binds these men together. They’ve also benefited from the incompetence of the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office.

Here are some related links on this topic:


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