Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Robert Merle Schwartz

The Philadelphia lawyer, prosecutor, district attorney, defeated mayoral candidate, and Second Judicial District Court Judge, Bob Schwartz died Monday from complications – Pneumonia – after having broken his leg last week when he tripped over his dog.

He was 62.

When I joined the Albuquerque Police Department in 1976, Schwartz was a young assistant district attorney establishing a reputation of winning. He soon became a premier prosecutor in the office of DA Ira Robinson. He would become Chief Deputy DA under Steve Schiff until Schiff ran for and was elected to Congress.

Schwartz, who had been a Democrat changing parties to be elected as a Republican DA and would return to being a Democrat when he had to run for district court.

He handled several of my cases before the grand jury, but all those case went to pleas. I’d give him full credit for taking my police work and convincing defendants and their attorneys they did not want to risk going to trial.
I had one encounter in court with Schwartz that was unlike any normal judicial proceeding.

On April 26, 1996, I attended a State District Court hearing presided over by Judge Albert S. "Pat" Murdouch, into a citizens group's petition request for a Grand Jury to look into the City's payment of $450,000 to Officer Bruce McAllister.

McAllister had been an Albuquerque Police Department's narcotics detective who was targeted by a former Deputy Chief and his former narcotics squad sergeant, both who had retired, and conducted an illegal (unlicensed private investigators) criminal investigation against him into allegations of murder, rape and drug dealing.

Through the union, McAllister’s area representative passed him on to me; within minutes McAllister was talking to a lawyer.

The end result was McAllister was not criminally charged, but was fired and when he demanded an administrative grievance hearing the City refused to put on a case or to reinstate him; as a result the City settled for McAllister’s resignation in exchange for a payment of $450,000.

In court District Attorney Schwartz challenged the sufficiency of citizens group's petition for presentation to a grand jury because it lacked specific charges and evidence that are required under state law for a grand jury to be impaneled.

Schwartz lashed out at supporters for not having drafted the petition to include specific charges. Schwartz pointed to the spectators in the courtroom and stated that they were supporters and included two Albuquerque Police officers, (Billy Pounders and myself) stating, at least one who had been a former Union President and they know how to write a criminal charge.

Both Pounders and I were former union presidents; Pounders had an interest in the petition process, but he had not been involved in writing it.

I was in court as an interested spectator; I was not a supporter of, nor did I sign, the petition.

My interest was in McAllister, yet he was not at any risk through the grand jury process.

The citizens group's wanted to know how the administration had mishandled the investigation and why they refused to provide McAllister a due process hearing; that was being covered up.

I first saw the petition, (which was written in the form of asking questions about the legality of the acts committed rather than as statements of criminal charges) on August 9, 1995, when the citizens group's leader, Al Leath was a guest on the APOA Forum Cable 27 Public Access TV program.

The petition was already being circulated and I had no input into or influence on the request for a grand jury.

Murdouch accepted the petition ordering the impaneling of a grand jury: Schwartz was not going to present the case and the citizens group could not find an attorney willing to step forward.
Schwartz was plagued by personal demons – drugs and alcohol – and battled them for years; attending rehabilitation several times.

Through it all, he was always regarded as strong lawyer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great article in light of recent events. Christopher Dorner... I actually heard some moron on TV say that ALL ex-cops that have been let go of ALL PD's felt vicitimized. This in fact proves that not all officers dismissed across the country were dismissed permanently nor justifiably. Many, many got their jobs back.

Concerned in New Mexico