A Mora County man convicted of inappropriately touching a number of underage victims left the area this week, but District Attorney Richard Flores maintains that authorities aren’t “exiling” him.
Flores took exception to comments in the media from Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack that his office is dumping a sex offender in those communities.
In a plea deal last month, Clifford Gutierrez, 34, of Cleveland, N.M., agreed to move away from Mora County to either Sandoval or Bernalillo counties. He was put on probation and didn’t get any prison time. District Judge Eugenio Mathis approved the agreement.
Flores stressed that Gutierrez informed authorities that he didn’t want to live in Mora County and that he wanted to live in either Bernalillo or Sandoval counties, where he has family.
The Albuquerque media have focused on the case as an example in which other areas of the state are sending their sex offenders to the state’s largest metropolitan area.
“Mr. Gutierrez volunteered to move out of Mora County. That’s the crux of this story,” Flores said. “The judge didn’t exile him out of Mora County. What really upsets me is that there are numerous defendants, including those accused of sex crimes, who have come over here from Bernalillo or Sandoval County. I don’t see them (mayors) making a big stink when they come from there to here.
Flores noted that the Fourth Judicial District, which comprises San Miguel, Guadalupe and Mora countries, has about 50 registered sex offenders, of which 31 are from convictions elsewhere, including Bernalillo and Sandoval counties. The 50 don’t include the 21 sex offenders at the state hospital in Las Vegas, he said.
He said there is no law that bans someone from residing in a particular community.
“Recent comments by various elected officials have done nothing but to promote vigilante response to the issue,” he said. “The law contemplates that convicted sex offenders have to reside somewhere. We cannot legislate a man without a county.”
Gutierrez must register as a sex offender wherever he is for the rest of his life. A victims’ rights attorney has said the victims’ families in Gutierrez’s cases supported the plea agreement.
Flores said Gutierrez had left Mora County within 72 hours as ordered by the judge and stayed in the Las Vegas area since mid-April. He said the state probation office has been monitoring Gutierrez, making sure he gets set up in Sandoval County. Gutierrez moved away on Wednesday, Flores said.
Flores said that if prosecutors find that Gutierrez doesn’t comply with the terms of his probation, they will ask a judge to revoke the probation and send him to prison.
Prosecutors have said previously that Gutierrez would get eight and a half years in prison if he violates his probation.
Messages were left in the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho mayors’ offices, but they weren’t returned.