A New Mexico judge is facing death threats this week after allowing the release of defendants arrested on a remote New Mexico compound and charged with child abuse. In a pre-trial ruling Monday evening, New Nexico District Judge Sarah Backus set a $20,000 bond for four of the five defendants and ordered they wear ankle monitors.
On Aug. 3, authorities arrested five adults and took 11 hungry and dehydrated children into custody during a raid on a filthy and armed compound near the Colorado border.
Prosecutors on Monday argued the group should remain behind bars, citing evidence they were training children to use firearms in violent public attacks, but Backus said there was not enough proof for her to keep them in jail.
A Taos County Courthouse official on Tuesday said Backus had received violent threats via social media, email, and phone, including one caller who threatened to slit the judge’s throat. Law enforcement put the courthouse on lockdown Tuesday afternoon.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, son of a well-known New York imam, will stay in custody due to an arrest warrant in Georgia, where he is accused of abducting his 4-year-old son in December. The child remains missing. Officials found the remains of a boy on the compound last week, but medical examiners have not yet identified the body.
On Tuesday, authorities said defendant Jany Leveille, reportedly the mother of six of the 11 children found on the compound, had been transferred to the custody of federal immigration authorities. Leveille, a native of Haiti, has been in the United States for 20 years after overstaying her nonimmigrant visitor visa.
Defendents Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj, and Hujrah Wahhaj could be released as early as Friday. —K.C.