Child abuse charges dismissed in New Mexico desert compound case

TAOS, N.M., Aug 29 (Reuters) - A New Mexico judge on Wednesday dismissed child abuse charges against three people from a desert compound near Taos where a toddler's body was found, citing procedural errors, but he delayed the order to give prosecutors time to refile.

Judge Emilio Chavez dismissed the charges against Subhannah Wahhaj, her husband Lucas Morton and her sister Hujrah Wahhaj, on grounds that a preliminary hearing had not taken place within 10 days after charges were filed against them on Aug. 8 and they were taken into custody. He also ordered their release from jail in Taos.

He said he would not file his order until 2 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), giving state prosecutors time to refile the charges, a move that would keep the three defendants behind bars.

RELATED: Children rescued from New Mexico compound

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Children rescued from New Mexico compound
An aerial view of a compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety after a raid by authorities, is shown in this photo near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Conditions at a compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety after a raid by authorities, are shown in this photo near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
This undated posted provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, left, and his father Siraj Wahhaj, who police are seeking the public's in finding. Police reports show that the Georgia boy missing after authorities raided a New Mexico compound over the weekend was last seen in Alabama in December. The boy's mother told police he left with his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, for a trip to a park and never returned. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children via AP)
A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, arrested in connection with a raid by authorities on a squalid compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety, is shown in this booking photo, in Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
This Aug. 5, 2018 photo shows debris outside the location where people camped near Amalia, N.M. Three women believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Jesse Moya/The Taos News via AP)
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Lucas Morten, arrested in connection with a raid by authorities on a squalid compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety, is shown in this booking photo, near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

This combination photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Subhannah Wahhaj, from left, Jany Leveille and Hujrah Wahhaj. Three women believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico, have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff's Department via AP)

This Aug. 5, 2018 photo shows a "no trespassing" sign outside the location where people camped near Amalia, N.M. Three women believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Jesse Moya/The Taos News via AP)
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

This photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Hujrah Wahhaj. Wahhaj and a few other women, believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico, have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff via AP)

Cooking items are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
FILE - This Aug. 3, 2018, file photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing boy in Amalia, N.M. Three women believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. The boy last seen in Alabama in December traveling with one of the men who was arrested has not been found. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
This photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Subhannah Wahhaj. Wahhaj and a few other women, believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico, have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff via AP)
This photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Jany Leveille. Leveille and a few other women, believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico, have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff via AP)
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, center, confers with one of his attorneys at a first appearance in New Mexico district court in Taos, N.M., on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, on accusations of child abuse and abducting his son from the boy's mother. Authorities were waiting to learn if human remains found at a disheveled living compound were those of Wahhaj's missing son. Authorities also allege Wahhaj was conducting weapons training with assault rifles at the compound near the Colorado border where they say they found 11 hungry children living in filthy conditions in a raid Friday. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Various items litter a squalid makeshift living compound in Amalia, N.M., on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, where five adults were arrested on child abuse charges and remains of a boy were found. The remains, which haven't been positively identified, may resolve the fate of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, a missing, severely disabled Georgia boy. Eleven other children were found at the compound during a raid last week. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Various items litter the kitchen of a makeshift living compound in Amalia, N.M., on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, where five adults were arrested on child abuse charges and remains of a boy were found. The remains, which haven't been positively identified, may resolve the fate of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, a missing, severely disabled Georgia boy. Eleven other children were found at the compound during a raid last week. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
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"The state made not one request for a preliminary hearing, the state made not one request for an extension," Chavez said.

State prosecutor John Lovelace said he would consider refiling the charges.

"We respect the judge's decision," said Lovelace, declining further comment.

Lovelace told the court that he believed "exceptional circumstances" surrounding the inability of the defendants to meet bail requirements and leave jail meant the 10-day rule did not apply in this case.

The three defendants were arrested after an Aug. 3 police raid on their settlement in Amalia, New Mexico, after reports that 11 children at their makeshift encampment were starving. The children were taken into protective custody.

The body of a missing three-year-old was found three days later at the compound.

Two other defendants, Jany Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, face additional child abuse charges for the death of the boy, identified as Wahhaj's son, who died Dec. 24, according to Taos County Sheriff's office. ( Editing by Frank McGurty)

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