Judge in New Mexico child abuse case receives threats

Courthouse evacuated after bonds granted

By HOLLIE SILVERMAN AND SARA WEISFELDT, CNN
Copyright 2018 CNN

A New Mexico courthouse was evacuated Tuesday after a district judge who granted bond to five suspects accused of child abuse at a rural compound received a series of threats, officials said.

(CNN) - A New Mexico courthouse was evacuated Tuesday after a district judge who granted bond to five suspects accused of child abuse at a rural compound received a series of threats, officials said.

After four hours of testimony in a Taos County courtroom, District Court Judge Sarah Backus decided Monday that the suspects were not a threat to the community. The five were arrested after 11 emaciated children were found on the property this month.

Backus granted each suspect an unsecured bond. Prosecutors argued the family had trained children in the use of firearms in the rural compound and should remain in custody. But an attorney for one suspect said they were following religious rituals that might be viewed differently if they were white Christians instead of black Muslims.

Backus has received more than 200 phone calls and emails criticizing the decision, according to Barry Massey, a spokesman for New Mexico Courts. Some callers have threatened physical violence against Backus, including some who threatened to slit Backus' throat and smash her head, Massey said. People also lashed out on social media and also threatened court staff, Massey said.

Most callers have criticized the judge and the decision and called her names, such as "an Islamic terrorist sympathizer" or "disgusting garbage human," Massey said.

Massey said the Taos County Courthouse, which was evacuated, will remained closed until Wednesday.

Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a missing Georgia boy, died during a religious ritual intended to cast out demonic spirits from his body, and his remains were kept on the compound, according to prosecutors.

CLARIFICATION: The story has been updated to add additional context on the nature of the phone calls and emails the judge in the case received after her decision.

Copyright 2018 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.