Levi Chavez's attorney files motion for change of venue out of county

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The defense attorney in a high-profile murder case involving ex-Albuquerque Police officer Levi Chavez has filed a motion to change the trial venue from Valencia to Sandoval County.

Chavez's attorney David C. Serna filed the motion that said Chavez would not get a fair trial since he claims a Los Lunas trial setting would "reach a fevered pitch" from publicity and media attention.

Chavez is accused of killing Tera Chavez with his department-issued service weapon in 2007 in their Las Maravillas home. Prosecutors claim Chavez tried to make the death look like a suicide.

The motion, which is 574 pages, lists stories from several media outlets, including the Albuquerque Journal and Valencia County News-Bulletin, says "the inhabitants of (Valencia County) are prejudiced against the defendant due to public excitement" over the matter. The current media attention is "sufficient to show a reasonable apprehension" that defendant will not secure a fair and impartial trial.

The motion said the publicity has been pervasive and insidious and has been continuous for five years.

In the document, there are specific dates listed of more than 60 Albuquerque Journal stories and stories written by other newspapers television news stations.

There are YouTube videos relating to Chavez that, at the time of the motion, were viewed 9,472 times, according to court documents. The motion lists comments left by readers on the Albuquerque Journal's website.

By contrast, Internet searches of the Rio Rancho Observer, the Sandoval Sign Post and the Sandoval County News returned no results when searching for the case, the motion claims.

In June, Chavez was led out of court in handcuffs after a judge ruled he had violated the conditions of his release by making contact with the twin brother of his late wife.

District Court Judge George. Eichwald ordered that Chavez be taken into custody and set a new $200,000 bond for Chavez, double the previous amount. Chavez was released before 5 p.m. that day after posting 10 percent of the bond.

Eichwald ruled Chavez violated his terms of release when he aggressively confronted Joshua Cordova, a witness in the case, in a bathroom at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.