ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former Albuquerque police officer recently acquitted of killing his wife wants a civil wrongful death lawsuit against him dismissed or to have taxpayers pay for his legal bills.
According to court papers filed in district court last week, the Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1fi7OSC ) that Levi Chavez said he will represent himself because he is “financially destitute” after his criminal trial.
“Due to defendant’s lack of legal training and the fact that he is financially destitute . necessary investigative services, expert witnesses, and other costs of litigation, any award of money damages against defendant would be a completely frivolous exercise and malicious effort to prevent defendant from becoming financially able to support his children, and the grandchildren of the plaintiffs,” he wrote.
A jury in July acquitted Chavez of killing his wife, 26-year-old Tera Chavez.
But the family of Tera Chavez filed the civil lawsuit against Levi Chavez, the Albuquerque Police Department, some of its officers and Police Chief Ray Schultz. The city later settled its part.
That civil case is scheduled for trial on Jan. 13.
Levi Chavez denied he caused Tera Chavez’s death. However, citing a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling, Chavez raised the possibility that the city may still be on the hook for representing him because it was an Albuquerque Police Department-owned gun that killed Tera.
Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy pointed to an unopposed order signed in 2011 by state district Judge Ted Baca, herself and Levi Chavez’s city-appointed attorney that approved a $230,000 settlement between the city and Tera Chavez’s family.
Levy said in a statement that Chavez’s complaint alleging that the city had a duty to defend him “was filed in bad faith and with the full knowledge that he has no claims against the city.”
“Mr. Chavez, through his attorney’s signature on the unopposed order, approved that settlement,” her statement said.