Home News Local News ABQ man named Roswell’s first US prosecutor

ABQ man named Roswell’s first US prosecutor

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Jacob Wishard, center, is the first assistant U.S. attorney stationed in Roswell. John C. Anderson, right, U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, made the announcement Thursday afternoon. Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith and many other federal, state and local law enforcement representatives from southeast New Mexico attended the press conference at the Roswell Police Department headquarters. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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New federal investigations office also will open

A prosecutor with 15 years of experience has been named the first assistant U.S. attorney to be stationed in Roswell, and his appointment also means that a Homeland Security Investigations office will open here and that enhanced coordination is expected with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Jacob Wishard is the first federal attorney to have a permanent office in Roswell in the known history of the New Mexico District, said U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, who heads the state U.S. Attorney’s Office and made the announcement Thursday afternoon at a press conference at the Roswell Police Department headquarters.

“Relationships thrive on proximity and they thrive on our ability to forge and foster effective partnerships, so our decision to station a federal prosecutor here in Roswell reflects our commitment not just to the communities in the southeastern part of the state but to strengthening and building our partnerships with our local law enforcement partners in this part of the state,” Anderson said.

Previously, the office has had attorneys stationed in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, its main office. A Santa Fe office is unstaffed. Anderson said the discussions about expanding had been occurring with federal and state partners for several months. He explained the high crime rates in New Mexico and the Roswell area signify the need for more law enforcement efforts and coordination, and said that his office is committed to reducing crime throughout the state.

“We are acutely aware that even in smaller cities like Roswell, the rates of violent crime remain too high,” Anderson said.

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Wishard said he served as a prosecutor for about six years with the state of New Mexico and then joined the U.S. Attorney’s office, working for about two and a half years in Las Cruces and five years in Albuquerque.

“I’ve done everything from gathering wood without a permit to capital murder,” Wishard said.

The press conference was attended by representatives of several state, federal and local law enforcement agencies. Those who made remarks included U.S. Marshal Sonya Chavez; James Langenberg, special agent in charge of the Albuquerque Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations; Jack Staton, special agent in charge of the El Paso Division of Homeland Security Investigations; and Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh, a former law enforcement officer, made introductory comments, and Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington attended and answered questions after the press conference.

With a federal prosecutor in Roswell, a Homeland Security Investigations office also will open here, said Staton. Until now, its agents have been located in Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Deming.

Staton said that he cannot disclose how many agents will be assigned to the new Roswell office, explaining only that it will be more than one person. He said that having a federal prosecutor here means that agents will be able to coordinate legal and court matters more easily compared to having to travel to Las Cruces to work on cases. He also said the move into Roswell is part of an expanded footprint during the past two years that has included bringing into the state a deputy agent and two special agents in charge.

“That will do so much to further our commitment to our partners in assisting with public safety in the area,” Staton said. “We look to the future and we are very excited to be part of our community, and having our agents living here and being part of the community means a lot to us.”

Roswell and Chaves County leaders said they think having federal entities here will help them address pressing issues such as violent crimes, drug trafficking and human trafficking.

“I believe this is something that needed to be done for a long time,” said Sheriff Herrington about not only the prosecutor but the enhanced presence of Homeland Security and other federal agents.

He said he has worked with federal law enforcement for some time on human trafficking and drug trafficking, two big concerns for the county, and that they can bring special expertise and knowledge regarding interstate criminal activity, including cartel activity, in addition to needed resources.

“We have 6,035 square miles that we have to cover, and we are going to utilize them,” he said. “And they have offered to let us use their planes, their helicopters, their dogs — something that we can’t afford — so I truly believe it is going to make Chaves County a better place.”

Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said, “We look forward to developing our partnerships. We work very hard at it as it is, and this only makes things better. This is a great thing.”

Kintigh called it a “huge deal for the community,” adding that he agreed with the remarks made a few days earlier in New Mexico by U.S. Attorney General William Barr that characterized New Mexico’s criminal justice system as “hobbled” and failing “to do justice for victims of crime.”

“These men, these women, these agents will step up and fill the breach because the federal system is fair, it’s compassionate and it’s just,” he said.

“It certainly is our hope and our expectation that having a federal prosecutor permanently stationed here in Roswell will allow us a better understanding of the needs of the communities in this part of the state,” said Anderson, “and will facilitate a closer working relationship between the U.S. Attorney’s office and its federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.