Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — A man who pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and other charges will still get his right to a speedy trial, but he’ll have to wait a little longer than expected.
Twelfth Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift on Tuesday continued Anthony Gallegos’ pending trial date from Feb. 26 to March 26. But she rejected the prosecution’s request to delay the proceedings for a full three months, since that date would have fallen beyond the timeframe that’s allowed under state law.
Gallegos, who stands accused of stabbing two men during an altercation last July, pleaded not guilty to the various charges against him in October. He has remained in custody since his arrest.
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Hopkins urged the judge to deny the continuance, telling the court that her client has been very protective of his right to a speedy trial.
“Mr. Gallegos has been sitting there waiting for his day in court and what he gets is: ‘You’re going to have to wait for a little while longer,’” she said.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy said his office sought to postpone the proceedings for a combination of factors.
For one thing, it learned just last week that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had not yet processed physical evidence related to the case, including a knife and various blood samples.
To compound the problem, Loy’s office has been unable to reach no fewer than five witnesses it plans to call to the stand.
Last but not least, prosecutors received word that the attending physician who treated the alleged victims in the case would be traveling in Germany during the scheduled trial date.
Judge Swift agreed that the physician’s absence was reason enough to continue the trial for one month. But she said she believes that the prosecution only asked for a continuance because it was still waiting for the CBI to begin its analysis of the evidence.
The bureau received that evidence last September. Yet its backlog of work is no secret, and the judge said the district attorney’s office should have been prepared for that likelihood.
“It is not something that is new, and the prosecution needs to be aware of that,” she said.
The bureau’s director, who is currently out of the office, needs to sign off on any requests to bump the project to the top of the pile, Loy said. Even then, he estimated that it could take the CBI’s staff six to eight weeks to complete the work.
But Judge Swift suggested that the district attorney’s office could ask the bureau to speed things up.
“I don’t think they have to let things grow or something,” she said.
The judge said she believes that it just wouldn’t be fair to the defendant to continue the trial any longer.
“This is the next 20 to 64 years of Mr. Gallegos’ life, and that being said, the (prosecution) should have done something sooner,” she said.
According to Loy, the bureau’s staff apparently didn’t know when the Gallegos case was heading to trial. But he could not say why someone waited until the third week in February to ask the bureau about the status of its work on the case.
“I don’t have a good answer for the court,” he said.
That answer did not satisfy Deputy Public Defender Christopher Light.
“Why wait until Feb. 12? Mr. Loy says he doesn’t have a good answer for this. That’s not good enough,” he said.
Light said there were many other instances in this case and others where prosecutors have failed to provide discovery materials to his office.
“This is an epidemic,” he said. “It’s an epidemic within this jurisdiction.”
He ultimately urged the court to impose the most severe sanctions it could in order to “send a message” to the DA’s office.
“There’s multiple violations here, and they’re not minor,” he said.
Judge Swift plans to issue a written order on that request in the near future.
Several other motions related to the case, including the defense’s motion to dismiss, are still pending.