Sammy Pacheco
Sammy Pacheco (Courtesy of the San Juan County Detention Center)

AZTEC — The trial for a man accused of raping a 3-year-old girl last year will be rescheduled after Judge John Dean ruled Tuesday that a witness made a prejudicial statement, thus biasing jurors.

A new jury trial for Sammy Pacheco, 49 of Bloomfield, was scheduled for Nov. 5 and Nov. 6, according to court records. Pacheco was charged on June 23, 2013, with criminal sexual penetration of a child, a first-degree felony, and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said a witness told jurors at Pacheco's trial on Tuesday that the defendant was on probation at the time of the alleged offense, information that was not allowed to be entered as evidence.

According to court records, Pacheco was on probation in June 2013 after being convicted of drunken driving for the third time in 2011.

Public defender Brad Kerwin is representing Pacheco. He declined to comment on the case.

According to a search warrant affidavit, officers from the Bloomfield Police Department were dispatched on June 22, 2013, to an apartment at 313 W. Sycamore St. after receiving reports of an alleged rape.

Police met with the girl's mother at the apartment, who told police that her daughter and Pacheco, who lived with the family, had left earlier in the evening to grab refreshments at a nearby store. She went searching for them after they were gone an unusually long time and found her daughter crying near Pacheco behind a bush at First Baptist Church on North 1st Street, according to the affidavit. The mother told police that her daughter's "Dora the Explorer" underwear was missing and she was wearing her shorts upside down. The girl's mother examined her daughter and said there was evidence she was sexually abused, according to the affidavit.

Officers located the girl's underwear in the bushes. Pacheco told police that he took the girl's clothes off so that she could go to the bathroom.

The woman's boyfriend later told police he found nude images of the girl, and other girls suspected of being underage, on a camera memory card that belonged to Pacheco, the affidavit states.

Asked why Pacheco was not charged with child pornography possession in addition to the rape charges, O'Brien said his office was still evaluating the evidence and deciding whether to pursue those additional charges.

According to court records, Detective Jeremiah Whitaker investigated the case, but was demoted to a patrolman after charges were filed. Kerwin alleges in a motion requesting an inspection of Whitaker's personnel file that the former detective made errors during his investigation of the case.

The state conceded in a reply to the motion that the Bloomfield Police Department could not provide crime-scene photographs related to the case or footage from the investigators' lapel cameras.

Bloomfield police Chief Randy Foster could not be reached for comment.

If convicted, Pacheco faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.