A former reporter is suing the city of Albuquerque, N. M., and a police officer for allegedly deleting evidence of police brutality and tampering with evidence during a story she was covering.
Cristina Rodda, a former anchor and reporter for the Albuquerque NBC affiliate station KOB, is suing Officer Stephanie Lopez of the Albuquerque Police Department. In her federal court filing this week she cited violation of the first, fourth and fourteenth amendments, intentionally spoiling evidence, violation of the New Mexico Tort Claims Act against Lopez. She also cited negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention against the city.
“We just filed this week so the city will have 20 days to answer the lawsuit,” B.J. Crow, Cristina’s attorney told ABC News.com.
On April 29, 2011 the reporter was sent by KOB to Tumbleweeds night club in Albuquerque, following a tip about a “rave” party where underage people were allegedly allowed, according to the lawsuit.
Rodda was filming the entrance of the club from the parking lot, when Officer Lopez allegedly pushed a young patron to the ground while working crowd control for the police department. Lopez has reportedly been disciplined for similar conduct in the past.
Rodda was soon asked to leave by a club employee and two officers, including Lopez, who demanded the camera tape, which Rodda refused and tried to leave.
Lopez frisked and searched Rodda’s purse without consent, later admitting Rodda was compliant throughout the whole process, according to the suit. The officer took the camera.
When the tape was returned to the station the clip of the patron being thrown to the ground was gone. Lopez later admitted she took the camera home, viewed the tape and did not tag the camera into evidence with the police department.
“She didn’t have any business taking that tape,” said Crow. He said the tape was sent to an expert, who was able to retrieve the clip and determine the clip was deleted while Lopez had the camera.
“We have proof that she deleted the clip,” said Crow. “It’s a pretty egregious case; I think the officer almost committed a crime by tampering with evidence. Because she’s an officer she could get away with it, I think if she was a regular citizen a criminal complaint could’ve been filed.”
Rodda was charged with criminal trespass by Lopez in June of last year, and went to trial February of this year. Crow said the prosecution did not present enough evidence to get the case in front of a jury and the case was eventually dismissed by the judge.
“The criminal trespass case was frivolous and malicious prosecution to further Officer Lopez’s own interests in an attempt to cover up the police brutality and not get in trouble with internal affairs,” states the suit. “This was done for her own personal gain.”
Rodda is seeking general, special, medical and punitive damages as well as the costs of litigation and attorneys’ fees.
KOB confirmed Rodda was charged on May 31, 2011. Rodda now works for the New Mexico Corrections Department as director of public information.
The Albuquerque Police Department and Officer Lopez did not return request for comment.