(RepublicanPress.org) – A group of protesters tore down an obelisk in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Indigenous Peoples Day last October. The monument had a long history of stirring up controversy among the area’s Native American population and their allies.
The protesters used straps and chains to topple the monument in the wake of a year filled with contentious debate regarding the accuracy and role of public monuments in the small town.
Authorities arrested eight suspects several months later. The decision by the local district attorney to use alternative sentencing on the arrestees has stirred up a hornets’ nest among many of the town’s residents.
District Attorney Recommends No Jail Time
On May 24, Santa Fe’s district attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies defended her decision to sentence seven of the eight defendants under a pre-prosecution probation program that is part of a sentencing concept called “restorative justice.”
The defendants sentenced under that guideline would serve a period of probation ranging from 6 to 24 months. They would also perform 40 hours of community service and would have to write a letter admitting their role in the incident.
Carmack-Altwies justified her decision, stating that the defendants were first-time offenders and would likely not have served jail time anyway. She also said their alternative sentencing would save the state the costs associated with incarceration.
The Community Speaks Out
As one might expect, to let the defendants off without any jail time didn’t sit well with several community members.
Ron Trujillo, a former city council member, called the sentence a “crock of crap.” As he explained, the DA let the defendants off with “a slap of the wrist.”
“Where’s the accountability?” he asked. Everyone is always talking about justice, saying, “justice will come.”
Virgil Vigil, the president of one of the oldest Spanish Fraternal Organizations in the country, echoed that sentiment. “It’s a shame” that people commit crimes, and prosecutors don’t punish them. “They’re criminals,” he added.
If any of the defendants fail to complete the restorative justice program, their cases will be referred for prosecution.
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