The state Attorney General filed a docketing statement with the appeals court on Jan. 2, in the case against former Torrance County sheriff and magistrate judge, Heath White.
Accused of embezzlement, fraud, making or permitting false public vouchers, criminal solicitation to commit tampering with evidence, and engaging in an official act for personal financial gain—all charges were dropped in a decision by district court judge, Charles Brown on Oct. 23.
In the Jan. 2 court document, assistant attorney general Jonathan Gardner states it was inappropriate of Brown to suppress evidence in a July preliminary hearing, where the only issue was probable cause—whether it was probable that a crime was committed, and whether the defendant probably committed it.
Gardner compared a preliminary hearing with a grand jury, where no evidence can be suppressed: “Grand juries and preliminary hearings hold the same place in our constitutional system, and perform the same gatekeeping function to protect people from unwarranted prosecutions.”
In his Oct. 23 ruling, Brown said search warrants were obtained improperly by state police, with “reckless disregard for the truth.”
Gardner argues in the appeals court filing, that “legal standard for suppressing evidence based on alleged misstatements in a warrant affidavit” was not met in this case.
According to AG spokesperson Matt Baca, the appeals court is expected to determine whether to hear the case and, if so, schedule a hearing.
The appeals court could overrule the suppression of evidence and send the case back to district court. Or, they could agree with Brown’s ruling, in which case Baca said the AG would appeal to the state supreme court.
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