Federal Jury Finds Kirtland, N.M., Man Guilty on Sexual Assault Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal jury sitting in Santa Fe, N.M., returned a verdict this afternoon finding Steven Michael John guilty on sexual abuse charges after a three-day trial. The jury’s verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Director John Billison of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.
John, 21, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Kirtland, N.M., was arrested on July 24, 2013, on a criminal complaint alleging sexual abuse charges. John was indicted on Aug. 14, 2013, and charged with attempted aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact. The indictment alleged that John attempted to force the victim to engage in a sexual act at a location within the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County, N.M., on July 18, 2013. It also alleged that John engaged in sexual contact with the victim on that day.
Trial of this case began on Aug. 18, 2014, and concluded this afternoon when the jury returned a guilty verdict on both counts of the indictment.
The evidence at trial established that on the afternoon of July 18, 2013, John broke into a residence in Sanostee, N.M., and attempted to rape a 16- year-old Navajo girl. The victim was taking a shower when John entered the residence and attacked her. Although the victim resisted John’s attack and was able to prevent John from raping her, John groped the victim’s naked body during their struggle. After John fled from the residence, the victim called 911 and reported the assault. The evidence presented to the jury included the victim’s recorded 911 telephone call, photographs of the injuries the victim suffered as she struggled against John’s attack, and the testimony of medical professionals who treated the victim after the assault.
John faces a statutory maximum penalty of life imprisonment when he is sentenced. His sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Farmington office of the FBI and the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer M. Rozzoni with assistance from Kristopher N. Houghton, Esq., a contractor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The case was brought pursuant to the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project was largely driven by input gathered from annual tribal consultations on violence against women, and is another step in the Justice Department's on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.