Sunday, November 29, 2009

$662,000 - Costales

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A Federal District Court Jury in Santa Fe Wednesday awarded former Albuquerque Police Officer Sam Costales, above, $662,000 in damages for retaliation for his testifying against fellow law enforcement officers.

The award was made for his having suffered retaliatory acts from Chief Ray Schultz, members of his staff, other supervisors and a police union official after Sheriff Darren White complained that Costales testified, when called by the defense, of Bernalillo County Deputies for their unprofessional and forcefulness in the arrest of former four-time Indianapolis 500 champion race car driver Al Unser Sr., left in his 1970 Johnny Lighting Special.

Costales, a retired and rehired APD officer witnessed the rough treatment of Al Unser Sr. and his brother, Bobby, who is also a former three-time Indianapolis 500 champion race car driver.
The racers now own and operate the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque.

This is Al Unser Sr.'s 1970 Johnny Lighting Special, on display, that took him to his second Indy 500 victory.
The Unser brothers had passed a “roadblock” of unmarked Sheriff Deputies’ detectives’ cars and drove onto their own property. Officers were trying to protect a crime scene a few blocks away where a man who had earlier led officers on a high-speed chase and shot at his pursuers was located. The man was later determined to have shot himself dead.

On top of the jury award, $200,000 was granted in legal fees and with other costs and fees the total expense to the City will be just under a million dollars.

Sheriff White and former APD officer and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association’s Secretary James Badway settled accompanying claims out of court.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

I posted three articles about this case three years ago.

The first posting, Sept. 7, 2006, Unsers on Unser, was a rare analysis of police procedures using the Deputy Sheriffs' own reports.

Attorneys Robert P. McNeil, left, who was Al Unser’s civil attorney and Charles Daniels, right, assessed the case similarly to how I had. Our assessments were the same.

Daniels was later appointed then elected to the State Supreme Court in 2008.

Daniels’ wife, Randi McGinn, was Costales’ civil attorney in his federal court case.

In a Dec. 16, 2006 post, Checkered Flag and Case for Al Unser Sr., I wrote about Unser's acquittal of charges against him. Sheriff White complained to Chief Schultz that Costales had worn his uniform while testifying under a defense subpoena. Schultz instigated an Internal Affairs investigation into Costales wearing his uniform to court.

In a Dec. 24, 2006 post, The Blue Wall: Intimidation and Bullies, I wrote about how the IA investigation was abandoned and about the concerted effort to minimize Costales.

The charges were dismissed against Bobby Unser, seen here in the pits during a 1972 Phoenix race.

Now, three years later, the case has worked its way through the courts and the major players seem to be in the middle of our current body politic. The old saying, politics make strange bedfellows, seems to apply. It also seems to be cyclical.

Under the new administration of mayor elect Richard R.J. Berry, right, Sheriff Darren White has been appointed Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety. Ray Schultz, left, has been retained as Chief of Police.

One might recall that White, below right, was an APD sergeant who was appointed New Mexico State Director of Public Safety for Republican Governor Gary Johnson, left, in 1995. In his second term in office, Johnson called for severe drug reform and White initially supported his governor’s proposal. About the same time the state police officers association took a vote of no confidence in White and he resigned but cited his difference with Johnson’s drug reform plans rather than his employee problems.

Former APD Captain Nick Bakas, above left, replaced White in December 1999 as Director of Public Safety. In 2002 White was elected Bernalillo County Sheriff. The picture was taken during the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

In December 2001, Mayor Martin Chávez appointed Bakas City of Albuquerque’s Chief Public Safety Officer. Then in April 2007, Bakas was reappointed to be the Director of Aviation.

My Take

An effort to contact Costales by e-mail for an interview went unanswered.

KOB Eyewitness was able to interview him.

Journal Staff Writer By Scott Sandlin wrote:
Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy said the city is disappointed with the verdict.

"…Chief Schultz supports and has always supported the men and women of the Albuquerque Police Department."
I beg to differ with Levy’s assessment of Schultz’ support for the officers in the department.

Ten years ago, I worked for then Captain Schultz, when I spoke out against the way the newly formed Police Oversight Commission attempted to conduct business behind closed doors. I took the City to court on a violation of the State’s Open Meetings Act and won.

I was retaliated against for speaking out, had violence used against me and my lawyer, Paul Livingston, right, while asserting my rights during an Internal Affairs Investigation a decade ago this week by then Sgt. John Gallegos, left, and was ultimately fired.

It was Schultz who delivered my termination papers. He failed to express any qualms about his task. A year later, the City approached me to mediate a settlement. I had not filed a lawsuit, only administrative grievances. I was fully reinstated with full back pay and a large settlement. I then chose to retire.

A Blue Wall of Silence and police brutality, though rare, exist and are even systemically enforced against officers. Both Costales and I won Pyrrhic victories.

Schultz’ record is not spotless; neither is White’s.

However, they are going to continue to lead the law enforcement effort in our crime infested community. This in the face of the political campaign promises by Berry to make crime his top priority.

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