UPDATE: MDC records show Amburgey was bailed out of MDC on Friday. The story is also reflected to update the options Amburgey had besides the $50 cash or surety bond to be released from jail.
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Judge Daniel Ramczyk seemed baffled reviewing the case of Brandon Amburgey.
Looking at the criminal complaint, Ramczyk asked Amburgey whether the littering charge he was jailed on was the only offense he was jailed on.
“Yes sir,” Amburgey replied.
What started as a littering charge for tossing a lit cigarette into the middle of Broadway in downtown Albuquerque has led to a week-long prison stay. Even though Ramczyk lowered Amburgey’s bond from $250 cash or surety to $50 cash or surety, as of late Thursday night Amburgey remains behind bars at MDC.
Amburgey also had the option of a third party release if he participated in mental health court. Ramzyck also deemed him eligible for CCP.
It would take just $5 to bail him out, but taxpayers have already shelled out close to $500.
“It’s very expensive to hold these folks in jail,” said Wayne Johnson, a Bernalillo County commissioner. “It runs up a tab rather quickly.”
But according to jail and court records obtained by KRQE News 13, Amburgey’s story is not a unique one. At least 7 people have been arrested and booked into MDC solely on littering charges since 2012.
The majority of those arrested for that lone littering violation, including Amburgey, have a history of substance abuse or mental health problems.
According to a criminal complaint from last June, an APD officer investigating reports of a man aggressively panhandling near San Mateo and Lomas found Justin Silva on a bus bench. The officer spotted Silva exhibiting strange, fast paced and “jittery” behavior. The complaint accused Silva of tossing a paper cup behind him before he got on a bus.
The officer said Silva rambled about “miscellaneous subjects” and wouldn’t answer questions. Silva was arrested and booked on a lone littering charge, which was later dismissed after Silva spent 5 days behind bars
A Bernalillo County deputy arrested Jeannie Tallman in July 2012 in an alley off of Isleta Boulevard. The deputy was conducting a welfare check on Tallman. According to a criminal complaint, an “incoherent and confused” Tallman couldn’t answer the deputy’s request for her name and birth date, repeatedly changing her answer.
A half empty beer can next to where she was sleeping was enough to earn her a criminal littering charge.
During an organized tactical plan, an officer spotted Richard Perales taking trash out of a trash can and then kicking it. He sat in jail for three days on a littering charge following his arrest.
Darrell Abe was arrested in October 2012 after a welfare check near Broadway and Central. An APD officer claimed in a criminal complaint that the man dumped all the tissues out of his pocket onto the sidewalk and “aggressively” refused to pick them up.
All it took for Steven Brown to get arrested was an undercover officer spotting him tossing a plastic water bottle on the ground and walking away. Brown spent the night in jail and later pled guilty.
It appears Justin Decardenas’ lack of respect may have earned him his littering-based trip to MDC. According to a criminal complaint, after transit security tried to keep a “heavily intoxicated” Cardenas from boarding an APD officer arrived on scene and tried to get him to leave. When Cardenas refused, the officer wrote him a criminal trespass citation.
Cardenas signed it, got his copy back and chucked that copy on the ground as he walked away.
“Is it a case where an officer’s just having a bad day and decides your not complying so I’m taking you to jail? Could’ve happened, it’s hard to tell from the reports,” Johnson said. “Or is it the case that the officer really doesn’t have an alternative.”
Johnson says, unfortunately, officers are often on the front lines of dealing with behavioral health problems because the help many people need simply isn’t there.
“We need to work together and I think the will of the public and the various governments is there,” Johnson said.
Although officers can write a citation for littering, as a petty misdemeanor it can carry a sentence of up to six months in jail.
Amburgey’s trial is set for late May.