SILVER CITY, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly a month after being recorded weaving across a state highway at high-speeds and driving away from a traffic stop where one officer claimed she was “loaded,” a New Mexico District is respond to allegations that she was driving impaired and that police officers let her go.
Jim Foy, the attorney for Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez held a news conference Friday, maintaining Estevez’s innocence, while also speaking entirely for her.
Estevez was contacted by police on Saturday, June 11, as she was pulled over in a gas station parking lot in Silver City. The stop came after a witness’ 911 call. According to police reports, the witness initially called 911 to report Estevez’s state-owned vehicle swerving into on-coming traffic and the shoulder while driving eastbound on Highway 180, toward Silver City.
Silver City Police initially responded to the call, finding Estevez in the driver’s seat and her car with a flat tire on the front passenger-side of the vehicle. Police also observed vegetation stuck in the bumper, according to reports.
According to police lapel camera video and reports, Estevez claimed that the flat tire caused her to swerve.
“I didn’t think I did anything wrong except I swerved to try to main (sic) control,” said Estevez when speaking to Silver City Police officers.
KRQE News 13 pressed Estevez Friday for her side of the story. Reporter Chris McKee first caught up with Estevez in the parking lot of the Sixth Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Silver City.
When asked if she had anything to say about her driving incident, Estevez responded, “I don’t want to be on TV, OK?”
Moments later, Estevez walked into the office building, only referencing that her side would be presented a 3:30 p.m. news conference.
While Estevez was at that news conference, her attorney, former Sixth Judicial District Attorney Jim Foy, wouldn’t let her speak.
“You’re an elected official, you can speak for yourself, as well,” said KRQE News 13 Reporter Chris McKee, addressing Francesca Estevez for a comment on the situation.
“Until I’m absolutely certain that there will be no charges, and I’m not absolutely certain of that right now, she’s my client and I’m directing her not to answer,” said Foy.
Silver City and State Police say at this point, Estevez is not under any type of criminal investigation. While State Police says the “window has passed” for any type of criminal charges, Silver City Police Chief Ed Reynolds now says his department hasn’t made a final determination about what it will do.
At Friday’s news conference, Foy defended Estevez saying that the district attorney was sober, doesn’t drink or use drugs or have a problem with prescription medication.
“I pose the question to Francesca, do you have a problem with prescription meds or illegal drugs?” asked KRQE News 13 Reporter Chris McKee.
“Absolutely not, she does not, she’s not going to answer that question, and she does not,” said Foy.
Foy also insisted that Estevez never asked for special treatment, and didn’t feel like she got any on the day of the traffic stop.
“I mean what is Francesca supposed to do? Gosh? I’m a public official, test me? I don’t think so!” exclaimed Foy.
Foy also explained Estevez’s bad driving by saying she was driving on a flat tire that she didn’t know about. During his 45 minute explanation of what happened, Foy presented the damaged tire as an example of how bad Estevez’s situation was.
He also explained Estevez’s driving as a reaction to being spooked by the witness who was following her.
“This guy… this guy basically stayed there the whole time until the end because something had to be done, he didn’t like what happened when Silver City PD, when they said she wasn’t drunk, he didn’t like it when the State Police said she wasn’t drunk, and the next thing you know, we have his tape recording across the world,” said Foy.
Foy claims the witness was “tail-gating” Estevez’s car, explaining that during at least one point in the video when Estevez’s car drove on to the shoulder, Estevez was trying to signal for the witness to pass her car.
“I don’t know how to put it any other way than she felt a little uncomfortable being out in the middle of nowhere, on a rural road in New Mexico as the district attorney, someone who’s job it is on a regular basis to put people in jail,” said Estevez.
Lapel camera video recordings captured officers skepticism about the situation Estevez was involved in. During one point in the various lapel camera recordings, a Silver City Police officer spoke of his belief that Estevez was “loaded.”
“What do you think?” asked Silver City Police Officer Leticia Lopez.
“She’s loaded, she almost fell down,” replied Silver City Police Officer Kyle Spuregon.
Lapel camera recordings also captured Estevez tripping towards the trunk of her car; changing her story about where she was driving from; falling into her car seat; and stumbling while she appears to practice a heel-toe walking test.
In Estevez’s defense, Foy said he believes the pieces of recordings showing her behavior have been “sensationalized.” Foy explained that Estevez is expressive when she speaks and uses her hands a lot. He also claims that she has a bad knee and likes to pace back and forth when she walks. Foy said Estevez was also distracted by her phone when she fell into her car and worried about not sitting on spilled soup that she was transporting to a co-worker. In addition, Foy claimed that Estevez’s changing story was because she simply wasn’t paying attention to the questions being asked of her.
Despite the concerns that officers spoke of in lapel camera records, along with what officers saw at the scene, including the witness’ video, Silver City Police and a New Mexico State Police officer who responded to the scene declined to do a DWI investigation. Estevez was let go without any kind of field sobriety test. Lapel camera video captured two officers on-scene speaking about not doing a DWI investigation.
“Yeah I’m not, because I’ve already done this… something like this in Santa Clara, where they had me take it … and it’s a mess,” said NMSP Officer Alyssa Flores.
“No, no, here’s the thing, we’re not going to make you take… we’re not going to make you do a DWI,” responded SCPD Officer Leticia Lopez.
New Mexico State Police and Silver City Police are now both conducting internal investigations into their respective officers roles in the incident. In an interview with KRQE News 13, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said the incident was mishandled.
“Christmas came early, in June, for the district attorney down in Silver City. That should have been handled differently,” said Chief Kassetas in an interview with KRQE News 13.
As for Estevez, her attorney hopes that their explanation puts an end to any further questions. When asked if he thought people would believe his story, Foy was adamant.
“Absolutely, it’s the truth!” exclaimed Foy.
As Silver City Police and New Mexico State Police continue their internal investigations into their officers conduct, they may find a different “truth.”