Judge denies release in Deming gun-raid case (6:50 a.m.)
By Ashley Meeks
Posted: 09/20/2011 06:47:51 AM MDT
LAS CRUCES - A federal judge denied a request Monday afternoon to free the youngest member of a Deming family accused of illegally selling guns across the Mexican border.
Remington Reese, 19, would have been released into the custody of his grandparents, Marjorie Reese Stewart and Jack Stewart, in Kingston, N.M., where he would have been required to wear an ankle bracelet and had his travel restricted to court hearings.
The family - including father Rick Reese, 55, mother Terri Reese, 48, and brother Ryin Reese, 24 - remains in federal custody at the Dona Ana County Detention Center on charges of selling 54 weapons and thousands of dollars of ammunition to undercover agents and a a Mexican cartel member turned government informant between 2010 and this July. All have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Defense attorney Paul J. Rubino of Las Cruces attempted to convince U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Brack that the youngest defendant could go to work doing landscaping and would be well cared for by his grandfather, Jack Stewart, a volunteer firefighter, and his grandmother, Marjorie Reese Stewart, a retired attorney.
Bu Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Lichvarcik said the teen had "every incentive to flee," and had already indicated his willingness to break the law to do so by asking an undercover informant about getting a Mexican passport under a different name, something that should give the court "abundant pause."
"Some crimes are just so horrendous,
there's just got to be really extreme circumstances for them to go free," Lichvarcik said, adding later that Remington Reese's "surreptitious conduct says he can't be trusted."
And Lichvarcik had a different picture of the family members who would be entrusted with Remington Reese's custody. Recorded phone conversations made by the teen's grandmother to Rick Reese in jail allegedly reveal her statements that she intends to file a civil case and make the family "millionaires," Lichvarcik said. In the recording, a voice believed to be that of Remington Reese's grandfather is allegedly heard saying that the Reeses are being made "scapegoats" for Operation Fast and Furious, an undercover operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that allowed thousands of guns to cross into Mexico so agents could see where in the drug cartels they would eventually end up.
"They're taking this dumb-ass s*** out on you," the grandfather is alleged to have said, Lichvarcik told the court.
"I think it shows they're not taking these charges seriously," Lichvarcik said of the grandparents, adding that the two would be unlikely to comply with requirements set by "authorities they think are conspiring against their relatives."
Rubino did not comment on the recording made of that conversation, but disputed the overall case of the prosecution, saying other comments made during the investigation that led to the arrests leave "a lot of reasonable doubt" about the Reeses' supposed crimes.
The Reeses, who were arrested during Aug. 30 raids of their properties in Deming and Las Cruces, are alleged to have made false statements on firearms purchasing forms during the transactions, many of which were captured on hidden audio and video feeds, then laundered the proceeds.
The charges don't sit well with a number of the family's supporters, including Bev Courtney, a Las Cruces firearms instructor and the president and founder of the American Gun Culture Club, who had done business with the family before their arrest.
"It's just so suspect to any common sense or any reasonable person," said Courtney, who attended Monday's hearing with four other club members. "As a firearms instructor, there's use of force laws that require you show there was an opportunity that a person could do great bodily harm to you and could take your life. You act on what a reasonable person believes."
At least four of the weapons sold before the government's investigation surfaced later at crime scenes in Mexico, prosecutors say, where drug cartel violence has killed an estimated 40,000 people in the past five years.
But the government has yet to prove that a reasonable person in the Reeses' situation really would have believed they were knowledgeably selling anything to Mexican cartel members, Courtney said.
The government is seeking not only the forfeiture of the Reeses' more than 1,200 firearms, more than 2 million rounds of ammunition and proceeds, their vehicles, money - including $125,000 in cash and 11 ammunition cans filled with gold and silver - and also the New Deal gun shop property, assets and licenses and a monetary judgment of at least $36,000.
If convicted, Rick Reese , who is charged in five counts of a federal indictment, could face 60 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. Terri Reese , who is charged in seven counts of the indictment, could face 80 years in prison and $2 million in fines. Ryin Reese , who is charged in 18 counts of the indictment, could face 160 years in prison and $4 million in fines. And Remington Reese , who is charged in nine counts of the indictment, could face 105 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines.
The Reeses, Courtney said, are "a family that's going to be devastated by our own government, and normally, you would think they would be able to be bonded - and (the government) is intent on not letting that happen."
She added: "It's not about due process and 'innocent until proven guilty.'"
Attorneys have until Sept. 26 to file motions in the case. Trial has not yet been scheduled.