A Roswell judge has dismissed a felony charge pending against a local psychiatrist during a court hearing this week.
On Wednesday morning, Chaves County Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers began the court proceedings against 55-year-old Steven Black, who had been cited with a fourth-degree felony charge of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor charge of battery against a household member. The charges stem from an Oct. 27 incident between Black and his wife, Helen Black.
Steven Black is CEO and owner of Pangea Medical, a psychiatric and counseling clinic in Roswell.
Before the hearing began, special prosecutor Nate F. Minnick of Alamogordo and defense attorney Michael Gomez Jr. approached Rogers.
Minnick informed the court that his witnesses included a family friend of the Blacks, Shawna Wheat, and Roswell Police Department officer Narcisco Santillan.
According to Wheat’s responses to the prosecution’s questions in court Wednesday, Helen Black sent Wheat a text message during the incident. In response, Wheat went to the Blacks’ home along Gayle Street around 9:15 or 9:30 p.m.
Wheat said when she knocked on their door, Steven Black answered the door.
Minnick then asked Wheat if she could identify Steven Black. She described his clothing and said he was present in the courtroom.
When asked if she had made any observations as she had approached the Blacks’ home, Wheat said when she saw Helen’s face, it was red as if she had been crying. The family friend said she could also see bruises and marks on her neck.
“I can tell that something happened,” Wheat said in court Wednesday.
Wheat said that she felt as if she could leave the Blacks’ residence — just not with the Blacks’ two children.
Wheat also told the court that Helen Black had attempted to leave the residence. The family friend said she later left with Helen Black and her children around 10:45 or 11 p.m.
Gomez also questioned Wheat, to which he was able to confirm that Wheat was not present at the time of the alleged battery.
Santillan, the patrol officer, was then questioned by Minnick.
Santillan said he has a total of three years of law enforcement experience at the RPD. The officer said around 1:35 a.m. on Oct. 28, he responded to a possible domestic disturbance at West Berrendo Road.
According to Santillan’s initial observations, when he spoke with Helen Black, he noticed marks on both sides of her neck, as well as a “clear handprint.”
According to the criminal complaint filed in magistrate court on Oct. 30 against Steven Black, he told authorities that the marks on his wife’s neck were a result of sexual activity. When asked about the marks on both sides of his wife’s neck, Steven told authorities that he “may have pushed her twice.”
Santillan, noting his law enforcement academy training, as well as the multiple domestic calls he has responded to in his law enforcement career, said the marks were “inconsistent” with both statements. He also added that the marks looked “fresh,” which the defense pointed out, was not mentioned in his original report.
Gomez then questioned Santillan, asking him if he had mentioned the language of “a clear handprint” in his report. The officer looked at his report. With a look of frustration, he said he had not, but instead said the marks on Helen Black’s neck “appeared consistent with someone grabbing her.”
Gomez was able to confirm through Santillan that even though Steven Black had been read his Miranda rights, he was still cooperative with authorities.
After both sides made their case, Rogers dismissed the charge of unlawful imprisonment against Steven Black.
Twelfth Judicial District assistant DA Minnick, serving as a special prosecutor in the case after Fifth Judicial District DA Dianna Luce referred the case to the 12th district, said the state of New Mexico still intends to pursue the misdemeanor battery charge against Black.
Minnick chose not to comment further after Wednesday’s court proceedings.
Gomez, a Roswell attorney, told the Daily Record after the proceedings the evidence did not support the felony charge.
“The court made a fair and just decision based on the evidence that was presented,” Gomez told the newspaper. “I think the prosecution did what they needed to do, just that the evidence wasn’t there.”
The magistrate judge said a no-contact order currently in place for Steven Black with his wife will remain in effect, however, he is allowed to have contact with his children through a third party. Helen Black was not in the courtroom Wednesday.
A pre-trial hearing for the misdemeanor charge is set for Jan. 2, still before Rogers.
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.