ALAMOSA — A defendant with more than one pending case involving assaults on officers started to verbally take on Alamosa County Judge Daniel Walzl on Monday.
“Why are you starting a fight with me?” the judge asked Anthony Espinoza, 34, who had initially been scheduled before Walzl for a preliminary hearing on one case and a status hearing on another.
With a new attorney on Espinoza’s case, the preliminary hearing was continued, but Judge Walzl addressed a letter from Espinoza’s father Thomas who was in the courtroom on Monday and addressed Anthony Espinoza’s behavior problems.
Formerly represented by Public Defender Amanda Hopkins, who withdrew from his case earlier this month, Anthony Espinoza is now represented by attorney James Dostal who had requested a second competency evaluation of his client. One had already been completed under prior representation, but Espinoza’s new attorney had the right to conduct a second evaluation, which Dostal said he was in the process of doing.
The attorney discussed with Walzl whether separate evaluations needed to be requested on each case, and the judge said he could take judicial notice of the evaluation for all cases involving the defendant.
Dostal asked the judge to schedule a status hearing six to seven weeks out to see if the competency evaluation was completed by then. Judge Walzl scheduled Espinoza’s cases for August 21.
Dostal then handed the judge a letter from Anthony Espinoza’s father Thomas, which the judge took time to read and then addressed from the bench.
Walzl told Thomas Espinoza that there was nothing for him to take action on as a result of his letter. The judge said he could not order the sheriff to house Anthony Espinoza in a different jail, and he did not see a conflict of interest, as Thomas Espinoza apparently alleged in his letter.
Anthony Espinoza, who remains in custody in the Alamosa County jail, then began talking to the judge, saying no one seemed concerned about his safety and that he had a broken foot that was not being treated. He said he was tired of being made out to be the bad guy when he was a victim.
“I am not safe here,” he said.
Judge Walzl said he was not saying Espinoza was the bad guy but was just trying to address his father’s concerns.
The judge told Espinoza that he (Espinoza) had always been respectful in his court before, and he appreciated that, but Espinoza had crossed the line in an adjoining courtroom where his behavior in an episode last month brought new officer assault charges against him and forced the district court to call a mistrial.
In court but unshackled for a trial in May on an officer assault charge, Espinoza became agitated over a development that might cause a delay in the start of the trial. When court security tried to remove him, he allegedly fought with them, kicking one of them and spitting on another.
Judge Walzl told Anthony Espinoza that he was trying to manage cases in his courtroom next door when that incident occurred last month so was aware of Espinoza’s behavior. The judge said he could hear Espinoza yelling and cursing.
“You crossed the line, Mr. Espinoza,” the judge told Anthony Espinoza.
The judge told Espinoza he was so far out of line in the adjoining district court that even the judge in that case was in the hallway trying to speak with him to get him to calm down.
Walzl said Espinoza was lucky he was not injured because he understood that Espinoza had inflicted serious injuries on a couple of deputies “that were just trying to do their jobs. That’s mostly what I see the officers are here doing, just their jobs, trying to maintain some civility, some safety and some decorum.”
The judge said Anthony Espinoza has had issues with law enforcement for a number of years, and those issues that resulted in court cases against him were something for him and his attorney to work out.
The judge told the defendant he should let his attorney do his job, because he has a good attorney.
The judge finally said the discussion with Espinoza was getting nowhere, so he concluded the case until the next court date. Anthony Espinoza said on his way out of the courtroom, “Maybe they will get a pay raise. I will go to prison.”
Speaking to Anthony Espinoza’s father, Judge Walzl said he did not disagree that there might be some mental illness related to his son’s violent behavior but added, “Personally I also think your son has struggled with the use of illegal drugs such as methamphetamines, and that will cause violent nasty behavior.”