Many readers have asked what’s become of seven violent vandals who destroyed the Soldiers Monument on the Plaza.
Countless residents of Santa Fe were hurt and troubled when a mob yanked down the 152-year-old obelisk. They want to know how these criminals are atoning, being that District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies agreed to deals that spared them from open court proceedings and jail time.
Carmack-Altwies said they would face a different sort of judicial ordeal under the banner of restorative justice.
The district attorney misled the public in several ways, especially by implying people would be able to follow the case.
This is what Carmack-Altwies wrote three months ago while defending her deal-making: “The defendants are court-ordered to participate in this rigorous program and must face the consequences of their actions on a community stage.”
Whatever stage they’re supposedly on must have a steel curtain around it. The community at large isn’t privy to this brand of restorative justice. Only a few people handpicked by a private mediator know what the Scofflaw Seven have to say for themselves.
Here’s a capsule of the series of questions I sent to Carmack-Altwies and her responses, if any:
- What has each defendant done so far under the restorative justice program? — No answer.
- Have written statements in which the defendants must admit their role in the crimes been completed? If so, will the public have access to these statements? — No answer.
- Has restitution been ordered? If so, how much, and has it been paid? — No answer.
- You said each defendant would pay a cost of the restorative justice program itself. Has this occurred? If so, how much is each paying? — No answer.
- In a follow-up, I asked Carmack-Altwies if taxpayers were bearing any costs of mediation or other parts of the case. — Answer: “Taxpayers are not paying for the restorative justice program.”
- Have the prescribed 40 hours of community service been ordered for each defendant? What are the work details? Have they been completed? If not, when is the deadline? — No answer.
- You promised accountability to the public. When will details of the reconciliation meetings be made available? Answer — “As I stated in the op-ed, this will be a 6 month to 2 year long process. It has been three months since the paperwork was filed with the Court.
“The pre-prosecution diversion program is ongoing and all seven of the defendants that were offered the program are compliant. I have no further information to release at this time.”
Though the Scofflaw Seven might be under court supervision for six months or more, Carmack-Altwies could be forthright about a case that she said would be on a community stage.
Nothing prohibits her from telling us if the defendants have written their admissions of guilt. They committed their crimes in October.
On the same track, Carmack-Altwies should want the public to know if these lawbreakers have been assigned community service, and what that part of their punishment includes.
Carmack-Altwies in May wrote that “restorative justice does not mean the obelisk defendants are getting off with just a slap on the wrist.” If that’s true, a public overview of the many rigors they’re enduring is in order.
Had the defendants been prosecuted in traditional fashion, developments in their cases would have been public. If they entered a plea, the judge would have questioned them in open court to make sure they did so freely. A factual basis for the plea also would have been part of the public record.
Had any of the Scofflaw Seven demanded a trial, that also would have been a public proceeding. No one would be left to wonder when an elected prosecutor might deign to inform her constituents about developments in a high-profile criminal case. This is no white-collar investigation where forensic accountants have to sort through a mountain of records. The crimes were as simple as they were ugly. Worse, seven people are being prosecuted while many more lawbreakers got away.
With abetting from Mayor Alan Webber and his malleable police commanders, the gutless gang destroyed historic public property in the light of day.
From the start, Webber and Carmack-Altwies have used weasel words to describe the case.
Webber said police standing down was smart strategy to prevent violence, as though the only options were mob rule or a police riot. Had police done their job by patrolling the Plaza, all violence could have been prevented.
Carmack-Altwies’ description of criminals who tore down the obelisk as “nonviolent” is an affront to the public. Other generalities she spews are as unconvincing now as when she floated them three months ago.
“Both the presence of and the toppling of the obelisk left people within our community deeply hurting,” Carmack-Altwies said. “I am pleased that we are pursuing a method of justice that will begin to heal those wounds.”
When exactly the healing will start is as muddy as ever.
Carmack-Altwies’ handling of the case has contorted the publicly funded legal system into something it was never supposed to be — a mystery to people who expected justice for all.