Prosecutorial Misconduct: Las Animas DA Admits Mishandling Cases 

February 16, 2015

The district attorney for Las Animas and Huerfano counties – Third Judicial District Attorney Frank Ruybalid – has recently copped to mishandling more than 12 criminal cases since 2010 as part of a plea agreement he made with the Colorado Attorney Regulations Counsel at the end of January 2014.

A case of prosecutorial misconduct associated with the Las Animas County DA has recently been resolved with a plea deal. Here are the details of that deal.

According to the terms of this deal, Ruybalid:

  • Will be under close scrutiny for the next two years
  • Is required to complete and pass an ethics course
  • Must comply with all regulations and rules regarding handling criminal cases
  • Could face a 6-month suspension from practicing law if he fails to meet any of the terms of this plea deal.

Ruybalid was reportedly elected to the DA’s office in 2008. While the Counsel filed its first complaint against Ruybalid in August 2013, it had been entrenched in litigation with Ruybalid over the past year before the plea deal was reached in this case of prosecutorial misconduct.

What the Las Animas DA Did Wrong: A Closer Look at the Prosecutorial Misconduct

According to some key players involved in working out this plea deal, the nature of Ruybalid’s prosecutorial misconduct has been expansive and varied. In particular, on multiple occasions with various types of criminal cases, Ruybalid reportedly:

  • Blatantly disobeyed court orders
  • Failed to comply with state evidentiary rules by not providing defense lawyers with evidence in a timely manner
  • Failed to appropriately supervise and train his prosecutors, who have also been accused of mishandling criminal cases
  • Failed to diligently represent the people.

For the cases in which prosecutorial misconduct is alleged to have been involved (including some cases that involved serious felony charges), trials never ended up taking place due to the misconduct allegations.

Although it remains to be seen if Ruybalid will successfully complete his probation and be able to move past this controversy, Attorney Regulation Counsel James Coyle has noted about Ruybalid’s plea deal that, “it’s a fair result… he serves a very important role as the elected DA. Our goal is to make sure he fulfills all of his duties to the public and the courts during his remaining time as DA.”

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