A New Mexico district attorney is vowing to “pursue prosecution” against the “extremist Muslim” compound suspects who were released from custody on Wednesday just hours after all charges against the three were dropped.
District Judge Emilio Chavez on Wednesday dismissed charges against three of the five defendants -- Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj -- ruling that authorities had violated the state’s “10-day rule.”
Child abuse charges against them were dropped because prosecutors missed the 10-day cutoff for an evidentiary hearing to establish probable cause. Chavez said it was a very difficult decision to drop the charges but the rule left him no choice.
“The actions yesterday by the district judges do not affect our continuing efforts to prosecute the individuals as charged originally,” Eighth Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos said in a statement on Thursday. “While we disagree with the judges, they did their jobs. We will continue to do ours.
“Going forward, our options are to refile the charges or take the cases to the grand jury. We are assessing and will decide which avenue to pursue. What is important to know is that we will continue to pursue prosecution of the cases.”
During a separate hearing Wednesday, Judge Jeff McElroy dismissed the same charges against fellow defendants Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Jany Leveille. However, charges leveled against them on Friday in connection with a 3-year-old boy's death remained.
The five suspects were arrested by authorities after an Aug. 3 raid that itself followed a monthslong investigation of 3-year-old Abdul-ghani Wahhaj's disappearance. He has severe medical issues and disappeared from Georgia in December. The occupants of the compound were "most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief," an official said at the time.
Taos County Sheriff's deputies discovered 11 children at the compound, who were taken into the custody of state child welfare workers. On Aug. 6, a child’s remains were found on the property. The body was identified as that of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj.
On Thursday, Gallegos fought back against criticism of the prosecutors' handling of charges.
“Finally, I have always welcomed criticism and, as public servants, our judges should also,” Gallegos said in the statement. “However, I ask that you be civil and respectful in your criticisms as that is more constructive. Cussing and threatening the people involved will not accomplish justice and serves no useful purpose. Remember, you do not have all the facts. That will develop as the cases progress."
Fox News’ Faith Mangan and Elizabeth Zwirz contributed to this report.