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Press Release

Career Criminal From Tohajilee to Serve Forty Years in Federal Prison for Covictions Arising Out of June 2011 Crime Spree

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBQUERQUE – Jerome Yazzie, 37, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Tohajiilee, N.M., was sentenced this morning to 480 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for his convictions on aggravated burglary, robbery, kidnapping and firearms charges. Yazzie’s sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and John Billison, Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.

Yazzie sentence was enhanced based on his status as a career criminal. According to court filings, Yazzie has thirteen prior adult convictions including two prior violent felonies in federal court and tribal convictions for offenses ranging from auto burglary to aggravated battery. Yazzie also was ordered to pay $422.20 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “The lengthy sentence imposed on Yazzie appropriately penalizes him for a long list of federal felonies committed in a single night and the terror he inflicted on his innocent victims. Yazzie has long been a menace to the community of Tohajiilee, and I commend the FBI and the Navajo Division of Public Safety for making Tohajiilee safer by making sure that Yazzie spends the next 40 years of his life in prison.”

A federal jury convicted Yazzie on Oct. 18, 2012, on a seven-count indictment charging him with two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of robbery, one count of kidnapping, two counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The evidence at trial established that, in the early hours of June 3, 2011, Yazzie forced two his teenagers to accompany him as he engaged in a crime spree that included burglarizing two residences in Tohajiilee at gunpoint, committing a robbery, kidnapping a young man, and discharging his firearm.

Yazzie, who was armed with a loaded shotgun, went to the first residence, which was occupied by a teenager and a young man, and kicked open the door. After bursting into the residence, he discharged his shotgun and ordered the two teenagers who accompanied him to restrain the teenager and the young man, while he burglarized the residence and robbed the teenager and young man of items in their possession.

Yazzie continued to the second residence, which was occupied by a couple and their infant. Knowing that the couple would not voluntarily let him into their home because he unsuccessfully had attempted to gain entry earlier that day, Yazzie attempted to trick the couple by having the young man from the first residence lure them into opening the door. Yazzie released the young man from his restraints, forced him to walk to the second residence at gunpoint, and demanded that he convince the couple to open the door. When the couple refused to open the door, Yazzie attempted unsuccessfully to force his way into the residence. Yazzie then walked the young man back to the first residence and, after restraining him again, Yazzie returned to the second residence. During Yazzie’s absence, the couple took their infant and fled
from their home. Upon his return, Yazzie forced his way into the second residence and ransacked the place, stealing cash, an X-box, a computer and other electronics.

“It is the FBI’s priority to protect all the communities throughout the state of New Mexico. In this case, a part of the Navajo Nation is safer with the sentencing of Mr. Yazzie, who has been found responsible for a string of violent acts in the Tohajiilee community,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lee. “Today’s sentencing is a testament to the hard work of the FBI Special Agents who investigated this case, with the assistance of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, specifically the uniform division in Tohajiilee, the Navajo Nation Prosecutor’s Office in Tohajiilee and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The FBI and its law enforcement partners will continue to work together to ensure the safety and security of all New Mexico communities, to include the pueblos and reservations.”

“I am proud of the outstanding work that the tribal officers and criminal investigators of the Navajo Nation perform every day to safeguard the Navajo people,” said Director Billison. “Working with our partners at the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office better enables us to hold serious repeat offenders like Jerome Yazzie accountable, resulting in safer communities for the Navajo people."

The case was investigated by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI and the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark T. Baker and Jack E. Burkhead.

Updated January 26, 2015