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Press Release

Navajo Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Involuntary Manslaughter Charge

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Berland Thomas, 44, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Mexican Springs, N.M., pled guilty this morning to a felony information charging him with involuntary manslaughter.

Thomas was arrested on June 9, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging him with murder.  According to the complaint, Thomas allegedly killed a Navajo man by beating him with his fists during an alcohol-fueled fight.  The fight occurred on June 6, 2014, on the Navajo Indian Reservation in McKinley County, N.M. Thomas was subsequently indicted on June 24, 2014, and charged with second degree murder.

During today’s change of plea hearing, Thomas pled guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge and admitted assaulting the victim by striking, beating and wounding him.  Thomas acknowledged that the victim died as a result of injuries suffered during the assault.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Thomas will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the range of 18 to 24 months followed by a period of supervised release to be determined by the court.  Thomas remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Gallup office of the FBI and the Crownpoint office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle T. Nayback is prosecuting the case.

Updated February 20, 2015