Joe Rivera entered the courtroom for his arraignment Friday on two counts of first-degree murder with a smile on his face.
Rivera, 18, is accused of shooting and killing John Griego, 23, and Nicholas Baker, 29, at a home south of Santa Fe during a Christmas night party.
In addition to murder, the grand jury also indicted him last month on counts of tampering with evidence, conspiracy and “criminal solicitation” described in the document as bribery or intimidation of a witness.
Rivera, through his defense attorney, Andras Szantho, entered a plea of not guilty Friday. District Judge Sheri Raphaelson, who is now handling a portion of the Santa Fe criminal docket, ordered that Rivera be held on the previously set bond of $1 million cash.
Family members of the victims in the case sat in the courtroom along with members of Rivera’s family. Rivera was seen multiple times waving and laughing with his family, and security personnel had to warn them to stop interacting.
The victims’ families declined to comment following the hearing. Assistant District Attorney Susan Stinson said they were having a hard time dealing with the tragedy and Rivera’s behavior in court.
Rivera, according to Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office police reports, shot Griego and Baker at a Griego family Christmas party where he had not been invited. The three were reportedly yelling gang affiliations at one another before shots were fired. Reports also indicate that an argument started over a bottle of rum that Griego had sold to the people Rivera was with. Griego then decided he wanted it back, police reports say. Rivera remained at large for six days before his arrest.
Capt. Adan Mendoza of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that investigators have yet to locate the handgun used in the shooting. Mendoza said the charge of bribery or intimidation of a witness stems from evidence that Rivera “had conversations with witnesses concerning events of the shooting.”
Stinson told the court Friday that Rivera’s actions leading up to his arrest make him a danger to the community.
“The state is also quite concerned about the possible danger to witnesses in this case,” she said.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office reported that Rivera had been released from a juvenile detention facility in Albuquerque just a few months before the shooting.