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Press Release

Federal Jury Finds California Man Guilty of Assaulting a Federal Officer in the Carson National Forest

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

ALBUQUERQUE – A federal jury sitting in Albuquerque returned a guilty verdict late yesterday afternoon against Michael James Axworthy, 58, originally of Lynwood, Calif., for assaulting a federal officer in the Carson National Forest after a two-day trial.  The United States dismissed two related misdemeanor offenses.  The guilty verdict was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough and Special Agent in Charge Robin L. Poague of the Southwestern Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

Axworthy was arrested on June 4, 2013, on a criminal complaint charging him with the following three misdemeanor offenses:  (1) assaulting a federal officer, (2) unlawfully using the forest as a residence, and (3) having a campfire in violation of fire restrictions.  The United States subsequently filed a misdemeanor information charging Axworthy with those three offenses.

Trial of this case began on Sept. 18, 2013, and concluded yesterday afternoon when the jury returned a guilty verdict on the assault charge and the United States dismissed the other two charges.

The evidence at trial established that on June 2, 2013, a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer received a tip that a man was living in the Carson National Forest and had a campfire burning during Stage One fire restrictions.  Based on information from the tipster, the officer went to a location within the Forest where he observed a white tent.  After announcing himself as a law enforcement officer, the officer approached the tent and observed a man, later identified as Axworthy, inside.  After the officer repeatedly directed Axworthy to step outside the tent, Axworthy came out of the tent and walked towards the officer at an accelerated pace while holding his left hand tucked behind his left thigh.  Axworthy was aggravated and upset as he refused to comply with the officer’s demands that he identify the object he was hiding.  When he was within five feet of the officer, Axworthy revealed the object in his hand, a small radio, and continued walking towards the officer while yelling at the officer.  When the officer told Axworthy to back off and present identification, Axworthy slapped the officer’s hand and started to walk away.  As Axworthy turned away from the officer, he placed his hand in his waist area, which led the officer to believe that Axworthy might have a weapon.  The officer subsequently arrested Axworthy following a brief confrontation during which Axworthy resisted the officer’s attempts to apprehend him.

At sentencing, Axworthy faces a maximum penalty of twelve months in prison and a $100,000 fine.  His sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Pfulgrath and Raquel Ruiz-Velez.

Updated January 26, 2015