ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A state District Court judge here on Tuesday heard wildly divergent accounts of what led to the death of a South Valley man in April 2013 at the hands of another man who, at the time, was working as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The hearing marked the first time defense attorney John McCall publicly laid out his trial strategy. Meanwhile, he sought to secure a lower bond for his client. He was unsuccessful.
Jason Estrada, 30, had learned that his partner in crime, Edward Quintana, also 30, was a snitch, McCall told District Judge Jacqueline Flores on Tuesday. Estrada invited Quintana to the home they once had shared and confronted him.
Estrada also added a second allegation during the encounter, McCall said. He accused Quintana of sexually assaulting Estrada’s young son.
The two began to argue, and Estrada, brandishing a knife, chased Quintana out into the street. That’s where Quintana retrieved a gun from the vehicle he had ridden to home in and shot Estrada “in self defense,” killing him, McCall said.
“These facts are pretty darn close to accurate,” McCall said.
“There is zero information that the deceased knew that Mr. Quintana was a snitch, or that the two were partners,” Assistant District Attorney Greer Rose told Flores.
The alternative version of how Quintana came to shoot Estrada is centered around the then-5-year-old boy. Quintana had raped the boy, according to prosecutors and the Estrada family’s attorney, and Estrada learned about the assault. He told several people, and word got back to Quintana.
It was Quintana who confronted Estrada in the home, according to the state’s version. Quintana shot Estrada four times.
For a year and a half before the shooting, Quintana had been working as an informant for the DEA, as KRQE News 13 reported last year. The DEA deactivated Quintana the day after the shooting, following his arrest on murder and criminal sexual penetration of a minor charges.
Quintana has pleaded not guilty.
McCall would not acknowledge last year that his client had been an informant. On Tuesday, he used that fact as part of his argument for a lower bond, calling it “service to the DEA.”
He also argued that Quintana would not pose a flight risk and said his client has spent the better part of two years in segregation at the Metropolitan Detention Center “on 23-hour lockdown.” (It is common for inmates charged with child rape — and for those known to have worked as informants for law enforcement — to be kept away from the general jail population. Officials argue that the practice is for safety purposes.)
Furthermore, Quintana has a wife and children of his own, McCall argued. Quintana’s wife was present in court and implored Flores to lower her husband’s $600,000 cash or surety bond.
Estrada’s widow and sister also spoke in court. They both said Estrada’s son remains traumatized by the events of 2013 and asked Flores to maintain the high bond.
She did, then set a tentative trial date for the last week in September.
Meanwhile, Estrada’s family is suing the U.S. government for $50 million. The lawsuit names as defendants six DEA agents and claims that they botched the vetting and supervision of Quintana.