NM man remains jailed in tainted yogurt case

AP News
Posted: Jul 15, 2011 8:32 PM
NM man remains jailed in tainted yogurt case

A New Mexico man indicted on charges that he handed out a semen-tainted yogurt sample at a grocery store will remain behind bars pending his trial after a federal judge ruled Friday that he was a danger to the community.

Anthony Garcia, 32, was indicted this week on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators. Police say he was linked to the yogurt through DNA samples.

The judge sided with prosecutors during Garcia's detention hearing, ruling that he should remain in custody without bail. Garcia has not yet entered a plea. John Van Butcher, his public defender, said he was disappointed with the judge's decision, but he said he couldn't comment further on the case.

Garcia is accused of handing out the yogurt sample at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded to the store after a woman said she believed the yogurt she was given was actually a bodily fluid. The woman told police that after tasting the sample, she spit on the floor several times and wiped her mouth on the garment she was wearing to get the taste out of her mouth, according to court documents.

Investigators collected samples of the woman's spit from the floor and took the garment she was wearing as evidence. They later served a search warrant and collected blood and DNA samples from Garcia.

Police said they linked sperm cells found in both the victim's saliva and on the garment to Garcia using DNA.

According to the indictment, investigators with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Garcia falsely claimed not to know that the spoon he handed the customer contained semen.

Garcia was arrested Wednesday by Albuquerque police and FDA officials.

In court documents, federal prosecutors described the allegations as "sickening and appalling."

"To target and lure an unsuspecting individual for such an assault upon her person falls far outside the bounds of normal societal behavior," the prosecutors said in a motion seeking Garcia's detention.

Prosecutors also included in the motion police reports of previous incidents involving Garcia. They pointed to a 2001 report in which Garcia was reported to have been seen masturbating in an Albuquerque neighborhood. The officer noted in the report that he had answered another call about a month earlier involving a similar claim outside a middle school.

In 2004, Garcia received a citation for indecent exposure at a Wal-Mart. The police report states Garcia apologized for "pulling out his private parts and touching himself as he walked around the store."

A September 2010 police report involving indecent exposure along a popular jogging path in Albuquerque also mentioned Garcia.

Court documents also say that on the day of the incident at Sunflower Market, police arrested Garcia on an unrelated outstanding felony warrant for criminal sexual contact with a minor. Prosecutors said those charges are still pending in state district court.

Prosecutors did note that none of Garcia's prior conduct has resulted in any felony convictions on his record.

"Based on the pending charges in both state and federal court, it appears that, over time, the defendant's behavior has instead become increasingly dangerous and threatening," prosecutors said in the motion.