Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2007
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2007 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Jason Auslander, The New Mexican
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Santa Fe Police Department: Danny Ramirez, a 19-Year Veteran of the 
Force, Tests Positive for Cocaine

A former Santa Fe narcotics detective under federal indictment for 
money laundering and other charges is addicted to cocaine and in need 
of drug treatment, according to court documents.

Danny Ramirez, 47, tested positive for cocaine May 16 during a drug 
screening by the U.S. District Court's Pre-Trial Services Division, 
according to a motion filed Tuesday by prosecutor Reeve Swainston. 
Ramirez, who was arrested on the federal charges while at work at the 
police department May 10, admitted to using cocaine and said he 
needed help dealing with his drug problem, the motion states.

"Defendant's addiction is especially evident by virtue of the fact 
that he tested positive for cocaine use, knowing that he was subject 
to random drug testing," Swainston wrote in the motion. Ramirez also 
might have an alcohol-abuse problem, the motion states.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Eric Johnson said Wednesday that Ramirez, a 
19-year veteran of the police department, retired May 18.

Johnson said the department conducts random drug tests of its 
officers. However, he said federal laws prohibited him from saying 
whether Ramirez ever failed a drug test.

"(The cocaine allegations) came as a total shock to me," said 
Johnson, who worked with Ramirez for nearly 20 years. "It's something 
that was totally unexpected."

The motion was filed in response to another motion written by 
Ramirez's lawyer asking that Ramirez be taken off electronic 
monitoring and home confinement. The reasons to release him from 
house arrest included his being a model employee of the police 
department; living in Santa Fe his entire life; having no criminal 
history and no history of drug or alcohol abuse; and not being a 
danger to the community, the motion says.

In a search of Ramirez's home after he was arrested, FBI agents found 
6 ounces of marijuana with a Department of Public Safety Crime Lab 
evidence tag on it plus a smaller amount of marijuana and several 
marijuana smoking pipes. According to the motion filed by Ramirez's 
lawyer, Jason Bowles, Ramirez was convicted of DWI in 1992.

Bowles did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

In response to the motion, Swainston said: "Notwithstanding the 
defendant's position, the conditions now in place are perhaps 
insufficient to protect the community or any other person from the 
defendant, because ... this defendant suffers from an addiction to 
cocaine and is in immediate need of substance abuse treatment."

Both the pretrial services officer and Swainston opposed Ramirez 
being taken off electronic monitoring and house arrest, according to 
the prosecutor's motion. The pretrial services officer said the usual 
course is to recommend Ramirez enter inpatient or an intensive 
outpatient drug treatment program, the motion states.

Ramirez and Sgt. Steve Altonji, 48, were indicted May 8 on 24 counts 
of money laundering, deprivation of civil rights, theft of federal 
program funds and structuring financial transactions to avoid 
reporting requirements. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Altonji had been on administrative leave with pay since November 
after he was notified he was a target of the federal grand jury. 
Chief Johnson placed both men on leave without pay after the 
indictments came to light.

Altonji's lawyer also asked last week that his client be removed from 
electronic monitoring and home confinement, according to court 
documents. Altonji's wife has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, 
and he must run the household and provide care and transportation for 
his wife, the motion states. Also, the pretrial services officer who 
has supervised Altonji for the last two weeks had no objections to 
removing the two conditions, the motion says.

U.S. Magistrate Lorenzo Garcia approved dropping Altonji's 
requirements Tuesday, according to his order. No decision had been 
made on Ramirez as of Wednesday, according to online court records.
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