Rio Arriba Man Receives Seven-Year Prison Sentence for Assaulting Federal Officer with a Firearm
ALBUQUERQUE – This afternoon in Albuquerque federal court, Juan Reyes Valdez, a 41 year old resident of Canjilon, a community in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, received a seven-year prison sentence to be followed by three-years of supervised release for assaulting a federal officer and using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. In a separate proceeding also held this afternoon, Valdez's co-defendant John Joseph Serrano, 49, also a resident of Canjilon, was sentenced to three years probation based on his misdemeanor convictions for assaulting a federal officer.
United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that the charges against Valdez and Serrano arise out of their efforts to assault and intimidate an officer of the United States Forest Service (USFS) who was on duty in the Carson National Forest on January 9, 2005. A federal grand jury indicted Valdez and Serrano on December 16, 2009, and the two men entered guilty pleas on November 24, 2010 under separate plea agreements with the United States Attorneys Office.
Valdez entered guilty pleas to two of the four felony offenses charged in the indictment: (1) Count 1, forcibly assaulting, opposing, impeding, intimidating or interfering with a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, and (2) Count 4, using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, specifically the assault alleged in Count 1. In his plea agreement, Valdez admitted that, on January 9, 2005, while he riding in a vehicle driven by Serrano, Serrano pulled up near a USFS vehicle that was parked near a ditch along forest service road 137 in the Carson National Forest. According to Valdez's plea agreement, Serrano got out of his vehicle, went to the driver's side door of the USFS vehicle, and started yelling obscenities at the USFS officer inside the vehicle. While this was happening, Valdez intentionally picked up a rifle, chambered a round of ammunition, and pointed the rifle's muzzle in the direction of the officer. Valdez admitted knowing that the USFS officer was engaged in the performance of his official duties when he pointed his rifle at the officer. Valdez has been in federal custody since his arrest on May 20, 2010.
Serrano entered a guilty plea to a two-count misdemeanor information charging him assaulting, resisting or impeding a federal officer. In his plea agreement, Serrano admitted that, on January 9, 2005, he assaulted and intimidated a USFS officer who was in uniform and driving a clearly marked USFS vehicle. Serrano admitted parking his vehicle near a parked USFS vehicle, walking up to the USFS vehicle, and yelling threats and obscenities at the officer who was in the USFS vehicle. After Serrano got back into his vehicle and drove away, the USFS officer followed in his USFS vehicle, activate the vehicle's emergency equipment, and attempted to arrest Serrano. Serrano admitted that he initially refused to pull over his vehicle and, when he eventually did pull over, he resisted the officer's efforts to arrest him, yelled threats and obscenities at the officer, and fled from the scene in the direction of his nearby residence. Serrano was in federal custody from the date of his arrest on May 19, 2010 until July 20, 2010 when the Court released him under pretrial supervision. He was taken back into federal custody on November 24, 2010 after he entered his guilty plea and spent 62 days in custody before receiving a probationary sentence today.
Assistant United States Attorneys David M. Walsh and Presliano Torrez prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the USFS.