Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Charge dismissed in Hailey stabbing case (Idaho Mountain Express)

Charge dismissed in Hailey stabbing case
Defendant released from jail to immigration agents
Express Staff Writer

A jury trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Blaine County 5th District Court on a Hailey stabbing case, but the charge of aggravated battery was dismissed against the defendant late last week.

But for Alberto Romero-Torres, a 21-year-old former Hailey resident, that doesn't mean he was released from jail. Instead, he was turned over Tuesday to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency because it had filed an immigration detainer on him when he was arrested in March.

"When a charge is dismissed and a detainer is in place, the detainer is still valid," Blaine County Jail Administrator Lt. Jay Davis said Tuesday.

The reason for the dismissal is not clear and the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office declined Tuesday to elaborate.

The case against Romero-Torres arose on March 13 when Hailey police were called to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center to investigate what appeared to be stab and slash wounds on 21-year-old Erika M. Ruiz, who police reported was living with Romero-Torres at the Balmoral apartment complex in Hailey.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in March by Hailey Patrolman Shane Manning states that he interviewed Ruiz at the hospital and she told him she was stabbed in the stomach and slashed on the arm by Romero-Torres during an argument earlier that day. Later that month, Ruiz testified before a Blaine County grand jury, leading to an indictment against Romero-Torres on a charge of aggravated battery.

Romero-Torres had been incarcerated in the Blaine County jail since his arrest on March 17. Hailey police reported then that he voluntarily turned himself in after he found out an arrest warrant had been issued for him.

Though a no-contact order was issued against Romero-Torres, prohibiting him from talking to Ruiz, the couple had allegedly been having telephone conversations while he was in jail.

On Aug. 26, Ruiz was arrested on a felony charge of unauthorized use of a financial transaction card, which police allege she used to transfer funds to the jail telephone account of Romero-Torres and another jail inmate.

Days later, the case against Romero-Torres was dropped. A motion to dismiss filed on Aug. 29 by the Prosecuting Attorney's Office states that a "post-indictment investigation has revealed evidence that seriously calls into question the events leading to the indictment."

"This evidence has led to the state's decision that the dismissal would serve the ends of justice," the motion states.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback declined to elaborate to the Idaho Mountain Express on why the charges were dropped and what might have happened the night Ruiz went to the hospital.

"The motion to dismiss is going to have to speak for itself," Fredback wrote in an email. "I do not believe it is appropriate to provide further explanation for the dismissal."

Hailey attorney Keith Roark was assigned to represent Romero-Torres in the stabbing case under the Roark Law Firm's public defender contract with Blaine County.

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