Conviction Reinstated in Lea County Criminal Sexual Penetration of a Child Case

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2015

Contact: James Hallinan (505) 660-2216

Santa Fe, NM – Today, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the Office of the Attorney General that Danny Surratt’s conviction for sexual penetration of a child under age thirteen be reinstated. The defendant is a retired law enforcement officer in Lea County who was investigated and charged in August of 2010 with inappropriate sexual contact toward his two minor stepdaughters.

“The Office of the Attorney General’s number one priority is protecting New Mexico’s children and families,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas. “Today’s Supreme Court opinion reinstates the conviction of a man who preyed on children, which is justice served. It also affirms the proper use of special prosecutors in cases where there is a conflict of interest.”

In 2010, after the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office referred the case to the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office due to a conflict, Surratt was successfully prosecuted. However, due to a jury instruction error the verdict was later set aside requiring a retrial. The 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office then enlisted the 9th Judicial District Attorney, Matt Chandler, as a special prosecutor who later secured a conviction for sexual penetration of a minor.

The defendant appealed on the grounds that the 12th Judicial District Attorney didn’t have the authority to appoint District Attorney Chandler. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant and reversed his conviction. The Office of the Attorney General’s Criminal Appeals Division fought this reversal before the Supreme Court, and today, the state’s highest court announced it reinstated Surratt’s conviction for sexual penetration of a child under age thirteen.
Please see attached for the Supreme Court opinion.

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