CLOSE CALL: Inmate Cuts Off Ankle Monitor, Shows Glaring System Weaknesses

If you followed the local news last week, you probably saw the KRQE story about the Albuquerque murder suspect, Trey Bausby, who cut off his ankle monitor and was on the loose for more than two days – and nearly a full day before the Albuquerque Police Department was even aware he was missing.

Bausby is a suspect in a deadly stabbing who was released on his own recognizance with an ankle monitor. But sometime last Tuesday, he cut off his ankle monitor – and APD wasn’t even notified until almost a day later. According to KRQE, our DA Raúl Torrez had asked the court three times to hold this suspect in jail before his trial.

This is a prime example of a case where a rebuttable presumption of detention could have made a difference. When a defendant is charged with a serious or a violent crime, the court should make an assumption that the public will be safer if that defendant awaits their trial behind bars. There is a caveat, of course: a judge could still decide, based on the defense attorney’s argument, that the suspect should be let go and does not pose a threat to public safety.

A rebuttable presumption would make pre-trial detention the default when it’s a question of a violent crime and the defendant’s likelihood of reoffending if they’re released. If you recall, there were two high-profile examples of defendants reoffending while on ankle monitors back in the spring, a homicide and a very close call that almost resulted in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

And, this story is just the latest in a series. Torrez started questioning in April whether there was adequate supervision of ankle monitor data, and it turns out he was right. A KOB story two weeks ago showed no one is even working in the Pretrial Services Division office in the evenings, on weekends, or on holidays to see when defendants move beyond their approved boundaries. A spokesperson said the office only “passively monitors” GPS whereabouts, meaning an alert may not be generated until Monday morning if a suspect leaves their boundaries on a Friday evening – more than enough freedom and time to commit further serious crime if they choose.

Fortunately, Bausby was taken back into custody early Friday morning and without any reports of further criminal activity. We are lucky; it could have been so much worse.

Now, APD Chief Harold Medina and Torrez have sent the district court a letter urging changes to GPS monitoring services, asking that GPS violations immediately trigger a notification to the judge and law enforcement, followed by the swift issuance of an arrest warrant.

We agree these changes should be implemented, and we also want to reiterate our support for creating a rebuttable presumption in law. We’ve been vocal advocates for this for quite some time and now, with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s backing, we’re hoping much-needed change is coming. We’ll keep you apprised of developments in this critical policy area.

In the meantime, you can read the Albuquerque Journal’s latest coverage of the story – and what  Albuquerque law enforcement leaders are doing about it – here.

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