The 11 counts of felony child abuse against Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhannah Wahhaj, and Lucas Morten were dismissed because a judge ruled they didn’t have a preliminary hearing in the 10-day time frame required by New Mexico state law for defendants in custody, a state courts official told CNN.
They were released from Taos County Adult Detention Center on Wednesday, according to reports from CNN affiliates. CNN has not yet confirmed their release with law enforcement and attorneys for the trio.
Two other defendants, Jany Leveille and Siraj Wahhaj, also had 11 child abuse charges dropped but were arraigned on felony charges in connection with the death of 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, said Siraj Wahhaj’s attorney, Thomas Clark.
They face one count each of intentional abuse of a child resulting in death and conspiracy to commit intentional abuse of a child resulting in death (child under 12). Not-guilty pleas were entered by the court on each defendant’s behalf.
They have a bail hearing Tuesday morning. A previous decision by a judge to grant bail sparked controversy. State District Judge Sarah Backus received more than 200 phone calls and emails criticizing the move, some of which contained threats, said spokesman Barry Massey of the New Mexico Courts.
Criticism for prosecutors
Taos County District Court Judge Jeff McElroy called out prosecutors Wednesday for being incompetent during the arraignment, according to affiliate KOAT.
McElroy said the case was “a situation where the court is being caught between very public, very shocking information and a complete failure to follow proper procedures in prosecuting the case.”
The judge added: “I don’t know if they are overworked or they don’t have enough people at their office. I don’t see the district attorney here or the chief deputy district attorney, but it is disturbing to me that the district attorney would put this court in that kind of a situation.”
CNN reached out to 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos for comment but received no response.
The child’s remains were found at a ramshackle New Mexico compound where authorities say they discovered the adults living in squalor with 11 starving children.
Police raided the compound August 3, hoping to find Abdul-Ghani. His mother in Georgia said the boy had been missing for more than eight months. Days later searchers found his remains.
The boy was last seen leaving his Jonesboro, Georgia, home with his father, Siraj Wahhaj, in late November. His mother has said he couldn’t walk, suffered seizures and required constant medical attention.
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