09/01/2006

N.M. officer is suspected of trying to help friend evade DWI arrest

By T.J. WILHAM
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal

Felony charges will be considered against an Albuquerque police officer accused of sneaking a friend out of the BAT Mobile before the suspect could be booked on drunkendriving charges, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Thursday.

Officer Benjamin Kirby, 27, is the subject of an internal investigation and could face discipline for the Aug. 25 incident,

police officials said.

Kirby, a fiveyear member of the department assigned to the SWAT unit, has been placed on administrative duty since the incident. Police officials said Thursday that Kirby has been reassigned to do paperwork for the department's traffic camera enforcement program.

Felony charges "will be considered," Brandenburg said. "When something like this happens, immediately everyone wants us to move into action and take care of it swiftly. We plan to do that, but we have to wait until we get the reports and information."

About 10 p.m. Aug. 25, an officer brought Jason Daskalos, 34, to the APD's breathalcohol testing van, which was parked Downtown near the main police station.

Daskalos, an Albuquerque developer, was driving his 2007 Porsche on Vista del Norte when an officer spotted him speeding, according to a Metropolitan Court criminal complaint.

The officer followed Daskalos and saw him run a stop sign, the complaint states. The officer lost the sports car momentarily but found it parked in a driveway at a home in the 1400 block of Silver Saddle NE. Daskalos came out of the home and the officer noticed "signs of intoxication."

Another officer arrived at the home and Daskalos performed a number of field sobriety tests, which he failed, according to the complaint. Daskalos was taken to the BAT Mobile, where he was given a breath test.

Daskalos had a blood-alcohol level of 0.09 percent, according to court records. The state's presumed level of intoxication to drive a vehicle is 0.08 percent.

A handcuffed Daskalos was waiting with other suspects to be transported to the Metropolitan Detention Center, police officials said.

Shortly before midnight, the officer watching the suspects went to the bathroom, police said. When the officer returned, she noticed a suspect was missing.

Eventually, police determined Kirby had removed Daskalos from the van and taken him to an unknown location, police officials said. Kirby was then ordered to bring Daskalos back to the van. Daskalos was released from the West Side jail Aug. 26, according to jail records.

Brandenburg said one of the charges her staff is examining is aiding an escape.

According to New Mexico law, it is a third-degree felony if someone intentionally aids "any person confined or held in lawful custody or confinement to escape; or any officer, jailer or other employee intentionally (permits) any prisoner in his custody to escape."

"That is one of the statutes we have already looked at based on the little information from the media," Brandenburg said. "We are going to have to wait until we get the report and see who is involved, what the facts are and what the appropriate charges are if any."

Police Chief Ray Schultz said Thursday he hasn't made a decision on what discipline, if any, he will take against Kirby.

Police officials said an internal investigation is ongoing.

The internal probe will likely determine how Kirby found out Daskalos had been arrested, what his relationship is with the developer, where the officer took him and whether Kirby took any paperwork related to the DWI arrest, police officials said.

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