New trial ordered for gun family
Exclusive: Jeff Knox reports on sudden turnaround in New Mexico case
A judge has ruled that, after a year and a half behind bars, Rick and Ryin Reese could be released on bail. And he followed up that order with a decision that the Reeses’ original trial was tainted and that a new trial should be granted.
In his order, Judge Robert Brack stated: “Regardless of the reason why the warnings went unheeded (or, more darkly, were ignored), there is no doubt that the prosecution, intentionally or negligently, suppressed the evidence.”
The judge then concluded by stating: “Viewing the significance of the suppressed evidence in relation to the record as a whole… the court concludes that the defendants’ Motion for New Trial should be granted.”
This decision was based on revelations that prosecutors improperly withheld information from Reese defense attorneys regarding an ongoing investigation into corruption among law enforcement officers in southern New Mexico, including a sheriff’s deputy who was an important player in the federal investigation and a witness in the Reese’s prosecution.
That information came out in a motion for a new trial filed last December, culminating in a hearing on the matter earlier this week. In that hearing, FBI agents and an Assistant U.S. Attorney testified that Det. Alan Batts of the Luna County Sheriff’s Department has been under investigation for corruption for almost 10 years and that this information was recognized as potentially impacting the Reese case. They further testified that Batts had indicated that he knew he was under investigation and therefore might have had a motive for currying favor with prosecutors with his testimony against the Reeses.
The judge noted that Batts had testified that Teri Reese had indicated to him that she knew that a gun sold to a particular purchaser had turned up in Mexico, but in her testimony, Mrs. Reese had denied such knowledge. Prosecutors had used this conflicting testimony to cast doubt on Mrs. Reese’s veracity, and returned to the conflicting statements several times during the trial, specifically pointing out that Batts had no reason to lie. Had the defense known about the ongoing corruption investigation of Batts, they could have shown that he did indeed have a motive to lie and the knowledge of this motive might have influenced the jury in the defense’s favor.
On the matter of pre-sentencing release, the judge declared that the government had failed to meet their burden of proving that release of Rick and Ryin Reese represented a significant risk of flight or a danger to the community. He ordered that the pair be released on $10,000 bond each, and that they be limited in their travel with electronic ankle monitors.
The family is now scrambling to come up with the necessary cash to secure the pair’s release.
The saga of the Reese family began back in August of 2011 when agents of Homeland Security Investigations, a new and growing federal police force, descended on the home and gun shop of Rick and Teri Reese and their two sons Ryin, 24, and Remington, 19. Assisted by forces from multiple agencies, HSI swept onto the Reese’s 85-acre homestead outside Deming, N.M., with helicopters, armored vehicles, and dozens of police cars as the epic climax to a months-long investigation and sting operation.
The military-style raid was all for show, though, because agents knew the Reeses were not there. The four family members had been arrested without incident in Las Cruces a short time earlier by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. As a ruse, ATF had asked the family to come to their Las Cruces office to discuss some paperwork issues.
Agents searched the Reeses’ home and nearby gun shop, cataloging all of the firearms on the premises and hauling them away in plastic 50-gallon drums. They also confiscated nearly two million rounds of ammunition from a basement storage room, and gold, jewelry, coins, and cash, along with Rick’s personal gun collection from the family’s home safe.
Agents also took dozens of empty gun safes on display in the store and several vehicles from the property. All told, agents seized more than a half-million dollars’ worth of personal property as well as something in the neighborhood of $2 million worth of inventory from the store – inventory which has significantly increased in value over recent weeks. They also seized the family’s bank accounts and investment holdings.
Terri Reese was granted bail in March of 2012 after being jailed for over six months. Rick, Ryin, and Remington were held through the July 2012 trial where Remington was acquitted of all charges and subsequently released, while Rick and Terri were each convicted of one count of lying on firearm purchase forms, and Ryin was convicted of two counts of the same charge. The family was cleared on 24 other charges. Rick and Ryin have remained in jail awaiting sentencing, bringing their total jail time so far to almost 18 months (exactly 522 days).
The Firearms Coalition is assisting in efforts to raise money for Rick and Ryin’s bail and other legal expenses. Direct contributions can be sent to:
The Reese Defense Fund
Attn: Patricia Arias
First Savings Bank
520 South Gold
Deming, New Mexico 88030
Or donations can be made by credit card through the Firearms Coalition website at www.FirearmsCoalition.org. Click on the “Donate” button in the left side-bar and be sure to include a note in the “Special Instructions to Seller” field mentioning that the contribution is for the Reeses.
This battle isn’t over by a long shot. Along with the cost of a new trial, the government is moving forward with forfeiture proceedings to try and keep all of the money and property they have seized from the family. We’ll keep you posted as the case proceeds.