Navajo Man from Littlewater, N.M., Pleads Guilty to Federal Assault Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Michael Benally, 31, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Littlewater, N.M., pled guilty this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to assault charges. Benally is the last of three defendants to enter a guilty plea in this case.
Benally and co-defendants Gabriel Largo, 28, and Joshua Largo, 20, both enrolled members of the Navajo Nation who reside in Crownpoint, N.M., were arrested on Sept. 17, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging them with assaulting a Navajo man with a sledgehammer and a rock and causing him serious bodily injury. The complaint alleges that the assault took place in the Crownpoint Chapter of the Navajo Nation in McKinley County, N.M., on Sept. 5, 2014.
The three co-defendants subsequently were indicted on Oct. 7, 2014, in a four-count indictment. Count 1 charged Benally with assaulting the victim and causing him serious bodily injury on July 30, 2014. Count 2 charged Benally, Gabriel Largo and Joshua Largo with conspiring to assault the victim by chasing the victim, throwing rocks at him, kicking him, and striking him with a sledgehammer on Sept. 5, 2014. Counts 3 and 4 charged the three defendants with assault resulting in serious bodily injury and assault with a dangerous weapon.
During today’s proceedings, Benally pled guilty to a felony information charging him with conspiracy to commit assault resulting in bodily injury and assault with a dangerous weapon. Benally admitted that on Sept. 5, 2014, he and his co-defendants approached the victim who was selling firewood. When the victim ran away from them, Benally and his co-defendants chased the victim, threw rocks at him and knocked him down. The three men then hit and kicked the victim. In his plea agreement, Benally admitted taking a sledgehammer from his truck and striking the victim in the legs with it with the intention of injuring and harming him. Benally further admitted that at some point he handed the sledgehammer to Gabriel Largo who used it to strike the victim.
On March 5, 2015, Gabriel Largo pled guilty to a felony information charging him with assault, and admitted that on Sept. 5, 2014, he and his co-defendants assaulted the victim. When the victim ran away from them, Gabriel Largo and his co-defendants chased the victim, threw rocks at him and knocked him down. In his plea agreement, Gabriel Largo admitted obtaining a sledgehammer from Benally and using it to strike the victim.
Joshua Largo also pled guilty to a felony information on March 5, 2015, and admitted his participation in a conspiracy to assault the victim. Joshua Largo admitted joining his co-defendants in chasing the victim, throwing rocks at him and knocking him down, and hitting and kicking the victim.
At sentencing, Benally and Gabriel Largo face a maximum statutory penalty of ten years imprisonment and Joshua Largo faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison. Their sentencing hearings have yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Crownpoint office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Mott.