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Press Release

Laguna Pueblo Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Assault by Strangulation Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native Women

ALBUQUERQUE – Howard Francis, 53, an enrolled member and resident of Laguna Pueblo, N.M., pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to an assault by strangulation charge.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Francis will be sentenced within the range of 27 to 30 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.


Francis was arrested on Oct. 18, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with assault of an intimate partner by strangulation.  According to the complaint, Francis assaulted the victim, a Navajo woman, on Oct. 11, 2016, in the Laguna Pueblo within Cibola County, N.M., by grabbing the victim’s hair, and hitting her in the face with a closed fist.  It also alleged that Francis used his forearm to pin the victim by the neck to the bed, making it difficult for the victim to breathe, and placed a pillow over the victim’s face while attempting to suffocate her.


Francis was indicted on Nov. 1, 2016, and was charged with assault of an intimate partner by strangulation or suffocating and attempting to assault an intimate partner by suffocating. 


During yesterday’s proceedings, Francis pled guilty to Count 1 of the indictment, which charged him with assaulting an intimate partner by strangulation.  In entering the guilty plea, Francis admitted that on Oct. 11, 2016, he grabbed the victim by the hair and hit her in the face while demanding the victim’s cellular phone.  Francis further admitted that as the victim attempted to leave the room, he grabbed her by the hair, dragged her back to the bed, and placed his forearms across her neck and applying pressure to her throat.  As the result of the assault, the victim sustained injuries to her face, throat and body, including bruising and red petechiae.  A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.


This case was investigated by the Laguna/Acoma Agency of the BIA Office of Justice Services and the Pueblo of Laguna Tribal Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Raquel Ruiz-Velez is prosecuting the case 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.

Updated October 27, 2017

Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime