District Attorney for the 5th District Janetta Hicks and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales announced, Wednesday, that Assistant District Attorney Donald F. Moore Jr., has been appointed to serve as a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hicks said that the negotiations started in April. The Memorandum of Understanding between the two was signed on Sept. 3. The MOU will allow the offices to share funding and resources.
Moore, who worked as ADA in Hobbs before he came to Roswell, had to undergo an extensive background check to get approval. He will split his time between the federal and district prosecutors.
“We get half and the state gets half,” said Gonzales.
The situation was described as a win-win situation for both state and federal governments, with Moore assisting in cases from all across southeast New Mexico. Among his first assignments will be the prosecution of the most recent Roswell drug sting where 84 warrants were issued and a total of 76 people facing state and federal drug trafficking charges were rounded up.
Gonzales said that the U.S. Attorney’s offices will be pursuing more firearm cases. “The advantage is in terms of sentencing.” He explained that in the federal system, the sentences tend to be stiffer, without parole or time off for good behavior.
“We have some tools in our tool box that the states don’t have.” Gonzales cited drug sentencing as an example. “For 50 grams of methamphetamine possession, the offender can get over 10 years, with five years for gun charge.”
Hicks said, “The maximum sentence in New Mexico for drug trafficking is nine years, with parole, it amounts to 4.5 years. Meanwhile the sentence for a felon in possession (of a firearm) is five years, although the average sentence served is 18 months.”
Roswell may see other changes as a result of the new spirit of cooperation. “I’ve talked to several of the federal judges up in Albuquerque and they would be willing to travel down to try cases in Roswell,” said Gonzales.
Speaking of the most recent drug raids, he said, “Our goal was to do something immediately for the safety of Roswell.”
However, Gonzales indicated that more raids could come in the future. “We’re going to be aggressively pursuing any person who doesn’t take the safety of Roswell seriously.”
“In this state, in southeast New Mexico, we have a great relationship with the federal government. … My policy is anything that facilitates cooperation with the federal government,” said Hicks.
Gonzales agreed. “We got great chemistry going here. Enforcement is the key … but we need to prevent crime in the first place … focus on the kids to keep them from using and from joining gangs.”
Moore referred to this phase of the program as “breaking the generational cycle.”
He expressed his excitement about his expanded role in prosecution. “I look forward to all the opportunities. This is an opportunity not only for Roswell, but also for all of southeast New Mexico.”
Moore said, “The federal system is friendlier to the prosecution.”
Hicks described the advantages for the 5th District as “sharing jurisdiction and resources. He (Gonzales) has national resources behind him.”
The MOU will last for a year and could be extended. “In 12 months, he (Moore) will know and understand both state and federal systems,” said Hicks.
The funds from the White House Offices of National Drug Control Policy High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area will cover a portion of Moore’s salary. His new post is a part of the new federal-state SMART program with its three-pronged approach of law enforcement, prevention and prosecution.