Judge receives death threats in child abuse case
LOS ANGELES: A US judge has received death threats after granting bail to five suspects in a case involving nearly a dozen allegedly malnourished children found at a remote compound in New Mexico.
Judge Sarah Backus granted the three men and two women — described by authorities as extremists — bail on Monday on grounds that prosecutors had failed to present clear and convincing evidence that they posed a threat.
Her decision, linked to bail reforms adopted in the western US state two years ago, stunned many in the community and prompted death threats against her and a barrage of abusive messages on social media.
“One caller said she wished someone would come and smash the judge’s head,” Barry Massey, a court spokesman said.
Another caller said he “wished her throat were slit.”
The Taos County courthouse was closed to visitors early Tuesday as a result of the threats.
Prosecutors say the suspects in the case had trained some of the children — aged between one and 15 — to use weapons and carry out school shootings.
Police raided the compound on August 3 while investigating the disappearance of the disabled child of one of the suspects, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj.
The body of a boy, believed to be the three-year-old child missing for more than a year, was later found at the compound, buried under human waste.
Authorities said the raid was carried out after the discovery of a web posting from one of the women inside the compound that said the group was starving.
Local officials said the adults and children found at the makeshift compound looked malnourished and lived in squalor.
The five suspects released on bail have been charged with child abuse.