Written by: Sam Orlando
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO – The FBI has intensified its investigation into a growing scandal involving police corruption in Albuquerque, executing a search warrant at the office of a well-known local defense attorney, Thomas Clear III. This development comes as the legal and law enforcement communities grapple with the fallout, including the dismissal of over 150 DWI cases and several police officers being placed on leave.
Clear, who has been practicing law for over four decades with a focus on criminal defense, also resigned from his position as chairman of the state Public Defender Commission on Friday, a role he has held since August 2017. The commission, an 11-member panel, oversees the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender.
Residents near Clear's office, which is situated in a house in a Northeast Albuquerque neighborhood, reported witnessing FBI agents forcibly entering the building early Thursday, removing the front door with crowbars, and spending hours removing files and other items. By Friday, the visibly damaged door was temporarily fixed with large wooden boards.
The warrants, which targeted multiple locations including Clear's office, remain sealed, and no charges or arrests have been made in connection with the case. Neighbors described a dramatic scene as FBI agents in tactical gear executed the search warrant, with no response from inside the house until agents breached the door.
Neighbors reported seeing police vehicles frequently parked outside Clear's office, noting that Clear and his paralegal were regular presences at the location. While the community expressed shock at the events, they also noted that they had never had any issues with Clear prior to the raid.
Simultaneously, FBI agents also searched the homes of at least three Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers as part of the investigation into the handling of DWI cases. Tessa DuBerry, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, confirmed the federal law enforcement activity and stated it was conducted in full cooperation with the APD.
The probe has led to significant repercussions within the local legal system. The 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office dismissed 152 misdemeanor DWI cases by Friday morning, attributing the decision to an ongoing federal investigation. The dismissed cases, a significant portion of which were filed by three APD officers, could potentially be refiled. The majority of these cases were filed in 2023 and accounted for 10% of the APD's DWI misdemeanor cases for the year.
District Attorney Sam Bregman expressed his distress over the dismissals, emphasizing the ethical obligations that necessitated this decision despite the profound impact on the legal process. As the investigation continues, the Albuquerque community awaits further developments in this unfolding narrative of corruption, accountability, and the pursuit of justice.