Alamogordo, NM — Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler announced that Alamogordo attorney and most recent Otero County Bar Association President Raymond Van Arnam, age 60, was convicted and sentenced late (Tuesday) afternoon in Otero Magistrate Court for kicking in the back door of his civil client’s estranged husband’s house, loading up and hauling away furniture, stealing his personal legal paperwork from the home, and destroying his personal property along the way.
The charges stem from October 28, 2011 when Alamogordo Police Department responded to a 911 call at the home of Anthony Stonecipher. The victim claimed that his estranged wife, Melissa Stonecipher, and her attorney, Raymond Van Arnam, were attempting to forcefully entering into his personal residence. By the time police arrived, Van Arnam and his client were gone, but everything was caught on video. New Mexico State Police officers were able to collect audio and video surveillance from cameras that were installed throughout the victim’s residence. After reviewing the video, officers saw Van Arnam attempting to gain access into the home by kicking the front door. At that time, the victim and a roommate left the residence through the backdoor and got into a vehicle to leave the area. Outside surveillance showed Van Arnam aggressively confronting the victim, and attacking the victim’s vehicle – causing damage to the driver’s side window. The victim was heard telling Van Arnam there were cameras, and Van Arnam mocked him. Once the victim left the area, video showed Van Arnam proceeding to the back of the residence and forcibly break in the back door and enter the victim’s residence. Video then showed Van Arnam and his client, Melissa, enter the residence and embrace. Then, they open the front door and invite in Van Arnam’s law office staff. Van Arnam instructs everyone to gather particular items of interest and to act quickly because they did not have much time.
The video also shows Van Arnam removing and destroying several “No Trespassing” signs that were posted throughout the residence. At one point, Mr. Van Arnam picked up the victim’s legal paperwork involving the case with his estranged wife, read the paperwork and then stole it by taking it with him from the home. Shortly thereafter, the victim returned and is heard, from his car, telling Van Arnam that he was destroying personal property and that he was had called the police. Van Arnam, along with his staff and client, left shortly thereafter with truckloads of furniture and the family pet.
The investigation continued and officers later learned that Van Arnam had no legal authority or court order to enter the residence and/or remove any of the property. At the sentencing yesterday, Van Arnam claimed he did not have time to get an order from the Court because the incident occurred late on a Friday afternoon. Van Arnam also claimed that, “If Stonecipher would have just opened the door, none of this would have happened.”
District Attorney Matthew Chandler disagreed. “This was a home invasion disguised as a legal process. Mr. Van Arnam gathered his crew of employees and his client, pulled up to the house in droves and demanded entry. When he couldn’t get in, he intimidated the victim into leaving his own property and then forced his way into the house where he and his posse cleaned this victim out. It was a planned attack against a person and his property, without any legal backing at all, and Van Arnam needs to be punished”, said Chandler.
In addition, Chandler argued that Van Arnam is now a habitual criminal due to the fact that he has two prior felony drug convictions from 2003 that occurred in Las Cruces, and as a result of those convictions he was placed on probation for three years.
After watching the video of the event and hearing arguments from the parties, Otero County Magistrate Judge Gene Galassini sentenced Van Arnam to spend 30-days in the Otero County Jail. Once released, Van Arnam was ordered to be placed on 334-days of supervised probation, subject to drug and alcohol testing, complete 100 hours of community service, and not have any contact with the victim in this case. Van Arnam was further ordered by the Court to pay $5,000 in restitution to the victim for damages caused as a result of the incident, and fined $2,500 which is the maximum amount of fines allowed by law for these crimes.
Twelfth Judicial District Attorney Diana Martwick appointed Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler as Special Prosecutor to represent the State in this matter. Van Arnam pled to one count of Criminal Trespassing, one count of Criminal Damage to Property; one count of Knowingly Removing, Tampering with or Destroying a “No Trespass” Sign; and one count of Larceny.
Melissa Stonecipher also pled (Tuesday) to Criminal Damage to Property of a Household Member and was placed on supervised probation for a period of 364 days. At this time, Raymond Van Arnam continues to practice law in New Mexico.