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Former NMSP officer facing drug charges sued by man for wrongful arrest, rights violations

Former cop set for May jury trial on drug charges

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Jefferson Ray filed the complaint in New Mexico federal court on Feb. 12, against the New Mexico State Police and former officer Daniel Capehart.
  • The criminal charges against the plaintiff were dismissed in July 2018.
  • Ray had a 0.0 blood alcohol content in breathalyzer and blood tests.

FARMINGTON — A San Juan County man who says he was falsely accused of DWI in 2018 is suing the New Mexico State Police — and a former state police officer who was arrested following a sting operation that same year and faces criminal drug charges.

Jefferson Ray's complaint said he was falsely arrested for DWI after having a 0.0 blood alcohol content on two different tests. He filed the complaint in New Mexico federal court on Feb. 12 against the New Mexico State Police and former officer Daniel Capehart.

The complaint was first filed in state district court on Jan. 13, then filed in state federal court on Feb. 12.

The lawsuit stems from a Jan. 31, 2018, traffic stop by Capehart.

Ray claims he was illegally stopped and wrongfully arrested by Capehart, then booked into the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.

Capehart claimed Ray failed to use his turn signal, when dash camera video footage shows he did. The officer claimed he could smell a strong odor of alcohol beverage from inside the vehicle, while Ray states he did not consume any alcohol.

The lawsuit states Capehart claims he saw numerous indicators during standardized field sobriety tests then arrested Ray for DWI. Ray performed a breathalyzer test twice at a state police office and both tests returned a 0.0 BAC. The legal limit for New Mexico is 0.08 BAC.

A blood test was performed also and returned a 0.0 BAC.

Ray's petty misdemeanor counts of DWI and turning movements and required signals were dismissed by the prosecution on July 3, 2018, according to court records.

The complaint alleges Capehart willfully, intentionally and/or negligently ignored the information that Ray had not consumed any alcohol, and that the defendants violated Ray's civil rights with the wrongful arrest and jail time.

It also claims the defendants failed to have probable cause that Ray was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Ray seeks an unspecified amount of damages for negligence and alleged violation of Ray's civil rights.

Defendants' attorneys Jason Yamato and Elizabeth Rietzel, New Mexico State Police and Ray's attorney Jennifer Yoder did not respond to requests for comment.

Daniel Capehart

Capehart's criminal charges detailed

Capehart, 34, of Bloomfield was arrested on June 29, 2018, on charges of distribution of marijuana and distribution of methamphetamine, according to court records.

He was initially placed on administrative leave after he was arrested at the Farmington state police office, then resigned about a month later on Aug. 3, 2018.

Capehart is accused of stealing drugs and giving them to women he was pursuing romantically or had a sexual relationship with, according to court documents.

With the aid of a 16-year-old girl to whom Capehart was sending flirtatious text messages, law enforcement organized deliveries of marijuana on two days in June 2018. 

Capehart allegedly set up two deliveries of marijuana on June 21 and 23, sharing instructions on how to retrieve and how to avoid getting caught with the drugs, according to the criminal complaint filed in court.

A confidential source and an undercover officer posing as a drug dealer with 24 grams of meth in the vehicle drove to a local casino during a June 29, 2018 sting operation. The undercover officer was arrested by Capehart during a traffic stop, during which Capehart took possession of the meth.

Daily Times archives state that  Capehart allegedly booked the undercover officer at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, then traveled to Salmon Park, near the intersection of Larch and Sixth Street in Bloomfield. He then allegedly left 5.7 grams of a crystal substance in a gum container near the bathrooms at Salmon Park.

The substance later tested positive for the presence of meth.

During an interview following his arrest, Capehart admitted to the two marijuana deliveries and the meth delivery, according to the complaint.

This case is pending in Albuquerque federal court with a jury trial scheduled for May 4.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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