Solomon Pena to be jailed until his next hearing; APD chief issues statement on justice

By: - January 18, 2023 6:30 pm
Solomon Pena poses for a photo with a crowd behind him.

From Solomon Pena’s campaign Twitter feed. The post read: “This is one of the last pictures I have of the Jan 06 trip. I lost that phone at the Trump rally in Phoenix, July 2021. Make America Great Again!”

Update: Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at 2 p.m. 

District Court Judge David Murphy ordered in a hearing this morning that Solomon Pena remain incarcerated before his trial, court records show.

Solomon Pena made his first appearance in court Wednesday afternoon.

Failed GOP candidate for NM House charged in connection to shootings at Dem politicians’ homes

Judge Jill Martinez at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court concluded there was probable cause in the case before kicking it to District Court since Pena is facing multiple felony offenses.

The District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to keep Pena incarcerated as the case unfolds. “The defendant’s actions show what lengths he is willing to go when he is dissatisfied with reality,” wrote Assistant DA John Litchford. “There is no reason to believe that someone so unwilling to accept reality will give credence to court-ordered conditions of release.”

Pena, an election denier and failed 2022 GOP candidate for the N.M. House, is facing allegations that he orchestrated shootings at the homes of Democratic politicians in Albuquerque.

“There are no conditions of release that will be able to prevent the defendant from conspiring with others and convincing them to engage in even more violence against those he disagrees with,” the prosecutor wrote. 

Judge Martinez on Wednesday indicated that Pena should be jailed until his next hearing in District Court, where a decision will be made about whether he will remain incarcerated before trial.

Still, Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina issued a statement to the press, alluding to a recommendation that Pena be released. “We are seeing yet another example today that shows why the criminal justice system is broken,” he said in an APD news release. According to the court record, no one has made that recommendation.

Instead, Medina seems to be pointing to the automated Public Safety Assessment tool. The court enters facts about a defendant — their age, their past convictions, the charges they’re facing, whether they’ve failed to appear in court — and the system spits out a number meant to weigh in on flight risk. But the tool is only one piece of information a judge considers when making a call about pre-trial detention.

Prosecutors, police and lawmakers in New Mexico tried unsuccessfully during previous legislative sessions to roll back criminal legal reforms that left pre-trial detention decisions entirely in the hands of judges and did away with the bail system in New Mexico.

In July, the state Supreme Court reinforced that as things stand, it’s the state’s responsibility to show that someone is dangerous and shouldn’t be released — that it’s not on defendants to prove they don’t pose a public safety threat.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in her State of the State this week again called on lawmakers to create a rebuttable presumptions” law so people charged with violent crimes would have to prove they’re not dangerous in order to avoid jail before trial.

Attorney Roberta Yurcic will represent Pena in court, according to the court record. She told CNN in an emailed statement that Pena is presumed innocent, and she will represent him fully, safeguarding his rights as she does so. 


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Marisa Demarco
Marisa Demarco

Marisa Demarco is an Albuquerque-based journalist and lifelong New Mexican whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent almost two decades as a reporter, producer and newsroom leader, co-founding the New Mexico Compass, and editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. She began a career in radio full-time at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health and criminal legal reform for much of the last seven years. During the pandemic, she was also the executive producer for “Your NM Gov” and “No More Normal,” shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice.