- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

LA JUNTA, Colo. (AP) - Police and prosecutors are criticizing the chief judge in Otero County for furloughing a criminal with a history of running from authorities after the inmate escaped and was on the lam for an eight-month stretch in which he’s accused of committing more crimes.

Authorities say Johnny Nunez was released on furlough in April after he asked Otero County Chief Judge Mark MacDonnell for time to say goodbye to his family before his sentencing on charges of eluding a police officer. Authorities say he failed to return for sentencing and they finally arrested him again in December on charges of felony menacing.

“He got the furlough and took off on us,” said Otero County District Attorney Jim Bullock.

Nunez is 30 years old with a lengthy arrest and conviction record, according to state records. He has been convicted of assault, obstructing police and has previously been arrested for burglary and menacing, KCNC-TV reported Tuesday (https://tinyurl.com/pdowv5a).

Last April, Nunez was again in jail on felony charges of eluding police in Rocky Ford and leading them on a chase, and police wanted to keep him there.

“He made the request for several hours to have the opportunity to take care of business and say goodbye to his family. We certainly objected given the history of the case. I understand what the judge was trying to accomplish, but Nunez was not a good candidate for the furlough,” said Rocky Ford Police Captain Micky Bethel, who was involved in the 2013 chase and arrest of Nunez.

MacDonnell agreed to release the prisoner for a few hours so he could say his final goodbyes before possibly being sent to prison. Nunez never returned from the furlough, disappearing into the community.

The sheriff’s office and police departments throughout Otero County said they spent time and resources hunting for Nunez, month after month, but never found him. Seven months after he was furloughed, while he was on the run, authorities say Nunez broke the law again and charged him with felony menacing.

Finally, in December 2013, eight months after he was furloughed, police in La Junta apprehended Nunez and jailed him again.

MacDonnell did not return calls seeking comment.

Court officials say across Colorado, judges occasionally grant furloughs for medical reasons, funerals and extreme personal circumstances for inmates, like visiting a dying relative.


Information from: KCNC-TV, https://www.cbs4denver.com

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