Pojoaque Pueblo Man Sentenced to Twenty Years in Prison for Conviction on Federal Assault and Firearms Charges
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native Women
ALBUQUERQUE – Gerald James Viarrial, 54, a member of Pojoaque Pueblo who resides in Santa Fe, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court to 240 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on assault and firearms. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge William McClure of District IV of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, and Chief Frank Rael of the Pojoaque Pueblo Tribal Police Department.
Viarrial was arrested in Jan. 2015, and charged with assault, firearms and child abuse offenses in a seven-count indictment filed on Jan. 21, 2015. The indictment charged Viarrial with assaulting a female and two minors with a firearm; assaulting one of the minors by strangulation, causing him to suffer serious bodily injury; committing child abuse; and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. The indictment charged Viarrial with committing six of the seven crimes in Indian Country in Santa Fe County on a date between July 15, 2010 and Aug. 15, 2010, and committing the assault resulting in serious bodily injury occurred on March 24, 2014. The female victim was Viarrial’s former intimate partner and the mother of his children (the “mother”).
Law enforcement authorities first learned about Viarrial’s criminal conduct on March 24, 2014, when they received a verbal report of child abuse from a social service provider. The report indicated that a teenager, one of the minor male victims, had requested help to keep his mother, his siblings and himself safe from abuse from Viarrial. Upon receipt of that report, the BIA and Pojoaque Pueblo Tribal Police Department initiated an investigation which resulted in the filing of tribal charges against Viarrial on March 31, 2014, and subsequently, the filing of federal charges against Viarrial. The related tribal court charges against Viarrial were dismissed in favor of federal prosecution.
On Dec. 16, 2015, a federal jury returned a verdict finding Viarrial guilty on all four assault charges and the firearms charge after a three-day trial. The United States dismissed one of the child abuse charges before the case was submitted to the jury, and the jury acquitted Viarrial on the second child abuse charge.
During the trial, the mother testified that in Aug. 2010, Viarrial forced her and her seven children to accompany him to a shooting range located in Pojoaque Pueblo. Upon their return to their home, Viarrial became enraged when he could not locate keys for one of his vehicles. He angrily blamed the children for losing the keys, and forced the mother and the children back to the shooting range to search for the keys. When they were unable to find the keys, Viarrial ordered the mother and children to line up and paced in front of them, firearm in hand, as he yelled at them. The mother testified that Viarrial raised the handgun and pointed it at the two oldest children, who were then 11 and 13 years old, and threatened to kill them for being “worthless.” The mother observed this while holding her six-month old infant and thinking that Viarrial was going to kill all of them. At that point, Viarrial became distracted by a telephone call and eventually permitted the mother and children to return home.
The mother and two minor male victims, who also testified about the Aug. 2010 ordeal, testified that they were too scared of Viarrial to report the assault. The eldest of the two minor male victims testified that on March 23, 2014, he reported Viarrial’s continuing abusive behavior to the director of the Pojoaque Pueblo Social Services. The teenager told the director that he was worried about what Viarrial might do if he contacted law enforcement authorities. The day after the teenager reported Viarrial’s abusive behavior, Viarrial assaulted him by strangling him. Several witnesses witnessed the assault during which Viarrial told the teenager, “if you ever tell the police what I do, I will kill you.”
Viarrial testified in his own defense, and denied assaulting the mother and children in Aug. 2010. He also denied assaulting the teenager in March 2014.
This case was investigated by the Northern Pueblos Agency of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services and the Pojoaque Pueblo Tribal Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kyle T. Nayback and Novaline D. Wilson 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.