Judge rules DA has no bias in Corona case

By Brittney Cannon
Deputy editor
bcannon@cnjonline.com

Curry County Magistrate Judge Duane Castleberry struck down a local attorney’s attempt Tuesday to get District Attorney Andrea Reeb and her staff removed as prosecutors against his client in a controversial case.

Castleberry ruled Reeb had no bias against attorney Dan Lindsey’s client, Jorge Corona, 28, of Clovis, who is charged in two separate cases — one that prompted an internal investigation against Clovis Police Officer Brent Aguilar.

A video of Aguilar’s August 2014 takedown of a handcuffed Corona during a routine traffic stop went viral on You Tube, prompting Police Chief Steve Sanders to start both internal and criminal investigations against the officer. Aguilar was later cleared of criminal charges, Reeb said.

Sanders has declined to discuss the internal investigation, noting it is considered a private personnel matter.

Lindsey argued Aguilar’s takedown of Corona and Reeb’s subsequent request that another district attorney’s office investigate the officer amounted to bias and an admitted conflict of interest.

Reeb argued there was no bias or conflict because she simply asked 11th Judicial District Attorney Rick Tedrow in Farmington to handle the criminal investigation against Aguilar, who is the son of her chief investigator, Dan Aguilar.

Reeb’s letter to Tedrow notes, “I am forwarding this for your review due to the conflict my office has in being involved in this investigation.”

“They said there was a conflict and they could not investigate Aguilar because of his father,” Lindsey said, “but there’s no difference in the conflict. Either they don’t want to investigate Brent Aguilar because of the conflict, but yet they want to prosecute Brent Aguilar’s accuser and not be biased.

The district attorney, Aguilar, and his father Dan are all very good friends,” said Lindsey.

Corona’s trial begins today on two misdemeanor charges stemming from the takedown — concealing identity and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer. He still faces two felony assault charges in district court, accused of attacking his girlfriend’s ex-husband and his father with a screwdriver shortly after the incident with Aguilar.

Lindsey said he plans to file directly with the state Supreme Court to appeal Castleberry’s decision.

Lindsey also argued a Facebook post by Reeb was additional proof of her bias.

“A true and correct copy of the Facebook post, wherein the District Attorney claimed support for Officer Brent Aguilar (badge #106) and exclaims, ‘It’s a great idea,’ expressing support for Officer Brent Aguilar, her chief investigator’s son,” Lindsey argued in his motion.

Reeb said she was simply asking what a number meant in the Facebook post.

“(Lindsey) brought up a Facebook post where I was asking another police officer what some symbol meant on Facebook,” Reeb said, “and they just told me what it meant.

“The court didn’t find bias,” Reeb said. “Some officer responded and said ‘That’s neat,’ or ‘That’s cool.’ So that’s what (Lindsey) held his case on.”

Reeb said she has no bias toward Corona, and that she doesn’t “even know him.”

“The court ruled that (Lindsey) was unable to show actual bias,” Reeb said. “Castleberry saw the law that no actual bias was shown against me towards Corona. I think Lindsey tried to put it all together that if you have a bias on Aguilar, you have a bias that I should be taken off of the case.”