Caleb Calandro, a Missouri man who shot two people in Santa Fe on the same day in December 2016, killing one, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery Monday as part of a plea deal in which he received a sentence of four years behind bars.
Assistant District Attorney Blake Nichols called the resolution the “least worst” outcome, citing issues with evidence.
But in a surprise twist, the District Attorney’s Office announced following the hearing that it was filing a complaint against District Judge Jason Lidyard — who worked as a prosecutor on the case before he went to the bench — for “misconduct” in relation to his handling of the case.
“… the District Attorney’s Office agreed to this plea deal due to the behavior of the former prosecutor on the case, Judge Lidyard,” James Hallinan, a spokesman for District Attorney Marco Serna, said in an email statement Monday morning. “And pursuant to our ethical responsibilities and obligations, we are filing a [State] Bar complaint against Judge Lidyard today.”
Hallinan later said the complaint had been filed. He declined to elaborate on what the office believes Lidyard did wrong.
“After conferring with the State Bar Ethics Hotline,” Hallinan wrote, “we were informed of our affirmative duty to report potential misconduct by Judge Lidyard when he was prosecuting the Calandro case.”
Lidyard said he had no idea what Serna’s office could be claiming he had done.
“I’m unaware of what there could be in the way of an issue,” Lidyard said in a telephone interview. “I worked the case hard to prepare for trial. … I’m curious to see what they said I did. Because I know what I did was what I’m supposed to do as prosecutor. I searched for the truth.”
The charges against Calandro have taken a circuitous route to resolution.
Calandro was accused of shooting and killing Rustin Radcliffe, 37, in a downtown parking lot in the early hours of Dec. 17, 2016, then shooting and wounding Samuel Dillon in a van in front of several witnesses later that day.
Dillon survived, but said via telephone during Monday’s hearing that he spent nine days in a coma and a month in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
Calandro, 36, claimed he acted in self-defense in both shootings.
The crimes were prosecuted separately.
Calandro stood trial in the Dillon shooting in 2018, and was convicted of pistol-whipping the victim. But jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction on the other charges in the case, including the shooting.
The Radcliffe shooting was scheduled to go to trial this month, but was resolved by the plea .
Under the terms of the plea deal, Calandro pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Radcliffe and to a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in the shooting of Dillon — a charge state prosecutors had said they planned to retry following the split jury decision in the 2018 trial.
The plea agreement, which was accepted by District Judge T. Glenn Ellington, settled sentencing in both cases.
The District Attorney’s Office originally charged Calandro with first-degree murder for killing Radcliffe, but reindicted him in February 2019 on a charge of second-degree murder, to the dismay of Radcliffe’s family members.
At the time, Serna said “new attorneys were assigned to the case since it was first indicted, and after review of the evidence and testimony, we determined to indict on second-degree murder.”
Lidyard said he had no involvement in indicting the Radcliffe case or the trial, which resulted in a hung jury.
Assistant District Attorney Nichols said in court Monday the state “found some additional information” as recently as late May, “that informed the decisions to come to a plea agreement.”
Calandro’s defense attorney, Tom Clark, said during the hearing the late-breaking evidence included information about Radcliffe’s own criminal history — which Clark said dated back to the early 1990s.
Clark said the new evidence included the fact that Radcliffe had recently been released from prison in Florida and was a suspect in “at least four robberies” in the downtown area in the months before his death.
“This man came to rob my client at knife-point and got shot,” Clark said. “When you attack someone with a knife you get what you get,” he said.
Hallinan said in an email: “Additional information we located was primarily Rustin Radcliffe’s prior criminal record, however we did locate a spreadsheet documenting robberies downtown in that area around that time frame.”
A list provided by the Santa Fe Police Department that summarized Radcliffe’s criminal record included multiple cases involving assault and battery, criminal damage to property, and disorderly conduct.
Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said Monday he couldn’t immediately locate any records linking Radcliffe to the downtown robberies, adding he would need to check with others in the department on the issue.
Calandro has been incarcerated at the Santa Fe County jail since December 2016. He will serve the remaning year and a half of his sentence in state prison. Clark had argued for Calandro’s remaining time to be suspended in favor of probation.
Ellington said Radcliffe’s criminal history didn’t justify him losing his life, but was “a complicating factor,” in the case.
Ellington said the plea “probably doesn’t make anyone happy,” and — as Radcliffe’s mother said in a letter Nichols read to the court — was “a bitter pill to swallow.”
But, the judge added: “The state has, I think, done its due diligence to get what it can.”
Radcliffe’s father, Gary Radcliffe, spoke at Monday’s hearing, providing the judge a copy of a photo of “a young Rustin” that reminded him of happier times.
“It’s been two and a half years since multiple gunshots took his life,” Radcliffe’s father said. “The thought of Rustin being shot and being left to bleed to death in the middle of the night has had an adverse effect on me psychologically. I’m haunted by the photo of a frozen Rustin, his dead body kept on ice at the office of the medical examiner for months.”
Radcliffe’s father said he’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since his son was killed.
“With all due respect your honor, Caleb Calandro has a violent nature,” Gary Radcliffe said. “I ask that you consider this in your decree.”
“Mr. Calandro, I do believe Mr. Radcliffe is right,” the judge said to the defendant before concluding the hearing. “You are a violent person, and if there was a conviction on higher charges you probably would be looking at a lot more time.
“In listening to your testimony both in hearing and at trial … it’s clear there is something more than just frustration with the circumstances, something else under the surface that comes out and is very obvious.”