Inside the Capitol

Monday, October 04, 2004

Iceberg Billy

SANTA FE Like an iceberg, the Billy the Kid case may be just the tip of some strange political and legal maneuverings in the state.
The case is a criminal investigation into murder initiated in Lincoln County by Sheriff Tom Sullivan, who said he deputized Capitan Mayor Steve Sederwall to help him out. Then De Baca County Sheriff Gary Graves was recruited. That added up to considerable fire power to apprehend the dead murderer, Pat Garrett, for the supposed crime of blasting away someone other than the Kid. Lincoln County Commissioner Leo Martinez recently played spoil-sport by pointing out that Lincoln County had real murders that needed to be solved.
What has astounded people for the past year is that something this absurd and so consuming of resources of public officials in Lincoln, Grant, and De Baca Counties is still living and breathing.
The reason for this eternal life is that whenever the case starts to die a natural death, two Bills step in to resuscitate it. Gov. Bill Richardson keeps adding Houston, Texas, Attorney Bill Robins, partner in a $50 million a year law firm and one of the biggest contributors to his election campaign.
Robins’ original claim to odd fame, occurred last November when he was brought into the case when the attempt to dig up Billy’s mother’s bones in Silver City ran into trouble because it was opposed historically, legally, and forensically.
Unfazed by these hurdles of truth, he took seriously the claim of this being the Land of Enchantment, and began speaking for dead Billy as his “client,” saying Billy wanted his mother dug up.
Arguably, this put the judge’s life at risk, since he might have died laughing, but he saved himself by telling the bizarre group of one governor, a dead Billy, and three sheriffs to go to Fort Sumner after Billy’s bones to see what they found there.
On September 24, they gave up in Fort Sumner, realizing that even more obstacles existed. The opposing attorneys told them bluntly that dead Billy did not exist. It also appeared that Deputy Sederwall did not exist either, as a deputy at least. Also the case did not exist, since a criminal investigation needed a criminal and Garrett did not exist.
With no case, there was no right for law enforcement officers to be there as petitioners. That took care of Sullivan and Graves. You might have thought they would all slink back to their regular jobs. But no such luck.
It is now evident that Billy’s ghost may not be the only recipient of these two good Samaritan Bills. In August, forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee was hired to scrape an old table to find DNA to match with Billy’s mother.
Though other forensic DNA experts called the notion absurd, it was reported that trusty Attorney Bill Robins was prepared to take that “evidence” back to Silver City for the sheriffs to once again attempt to dig up Billy’s mother’s bones.
In September, a group of De Baca County citizens filed to recall Sheriff Gary Graves. He hadn’t endeared himself by signing onto the Billy the Kid case. Even he admitted that finding no DNA “could dry up a major source of tourism revenue for Fort Sumner.”
His arrest of only three DWI suspects in over two years in office also didn’t help. Things looked bleak until who should appear to represent him but high-powered attorney Bill Robins.
Immediately after the Fort Sumner Billy the Kid case withdrawal, Gov. Richardson went on television, saying the case would be continued. A pattern is emerging, and it isn’t that everyone is named Bill. Why are these two big Bills so interested in little Billy?
Should we worry about what’s behind this, or are we just witnessing the bulldog tenacity of a successful politician and a successful trial lawyer? Time will tell, because they are not shy about leaving tracks.


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