Stephen Fox appeared at his arraignment in state District Court without an attorney Tuesday and offered a payment of just over $1,000 to settle up the criminal charges he is facing for his alleged role in the destruction of the Plaza obelisk.

Paying a fee would be cheaper than hiring a lawyer, 73-year-old Fox, a Santa Fe gallery owner, told state District Judge Jason Lidyard.

But Fox faces up to three years in prison and fines of up to $10,000 if he is convicted of all the counts against him and receives the maximum sentence.

He was charged with felony counts of damaging property worth over $1,000 and conspiracy to commit damage, as well as a petty misdemeanor count of unlawful assembly, after being accused of helping other demonstrators pull on a rope that brought down the 152-year-old obelisk, known as the Soldiers’ Monument, during an Indigenous Peoples Day rally in October.

Previously, Fox was represented by an attorney.

He told Lidyard the defense attorney “withdrew because he didn’t want me to speak with the District Attorney’s Office at all. I felt that it was necessary to do so to clarify a number of things.”

Fox said he’d tried to find another lawyer, but he later decided it would be more cost-efficient to pay the $1,025 listed in charging documents as justification for his count of damaging property worth “over $1,000.”

“I thought I would answer the felonious charge by simply paying for it,” Fox said.

“I can understand your logic,” Lidyard replied. “Unfortunately, that type of logic doesn’t apply in the legal sense of what you are dealing with. With a criminal matter, it’s not necessarily just paying back what damage may have arisen from your conduct.”

Lidyard urged Fox to hire an attorney to help him navigate the legal system.

“There are many things you think may be to your advantage, but under the law they are not,” the judge said.

Fox asked the judge if he had received a letter Fox sent. Lidyard said he hadn’t and advised Fox not to contact any judges who might preside over his case.

Lidyard said the state had recused him from the case.

Court records show it will be heard by Judge Sylvia Lamar.

Two other judges in the First Judicial District, T. Glenn Ellington and Matthew Wilson, have recused themselves. Santa Fe County Magistrate David Segura also took himself off the case after Fox accused Segura of following him home years ago — an action the judge said he couldn’t recall.

Fox, a longtime fixture in downtown Santa Fe, is one of seven people charged in connection with the destruction of the obelisk.

He previously tried to resolve his case in an unorthodox way.

In November, he sent a letter to police, city and court officials requesting a “amicable solution” and admitting he had helped topple the controversial monument, which had been decried by many as a symbol of racism because of an inscription dedicating it to soldiers who died fighting “savage Indians.”

“When one of the 40 or so activists handed me the rope, I gladly accepted, having been a Native American art dealer for the past 40 years,” Fox wrote in the letter.

Fox has said he believes Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber wanted the obelisk torn down, based on statements the mayor made in June. He brought up the issue Tuesday, prompting Lidyard to caution him against incriminating himself.

“As I stated to you some time ago, anything you say may be used against you. Everything that is being said here today is being recorded. So, if you say something that could incriminate you, I wouldn’t be surprised if this recording were to be played at your trial to prove your guilt,” the judge said.

When asked if he understood the charges against him, Fox said he could “comprehend” them but didn’t understand how prosecutors had arrived at them.

“I cannot comprehend how that conspiracy charge could have accrued from what happened on the Plaza,” Fox said.

His comments drew another rebuke from the judge.

“Whatever explanations, justifications, excuses, or other things you need to say about the underlying events is, again, not what we’re here to discuss,” Lidyard said.

Fox again brought up the mayor.

Lidyard cut him off.

“You don’t want to hear this at all?” Fox asked. “You don’t want to hear this point of view?”

“No,” Lidyard said. “You’re absolutely correct. I do not.”

(26) comments

Angel Ortiz

Sounds like it is time to become part of the general population at one of our fine facilities.

Katherine Martinez

Here we go again with this artifact who thinks he can exchange his way out of his lawlessness. Can we simply call an ace an ace? The law was broken, so let’s enforce the law and enough with trying to parlay the system, like you are some kind of martyr already! For all we know he will profit off some book deal—will the Natives ever receive a dime off of his showmanship?

zach miller

funny how a chunk of metal has more rights in santa fe than the indigenous people that live there.

Blaine Young

I watched Fox tell his story to a journalist immediately after his action. To hear him tell it at that time was to hear him take full credit for the event. A person would have gone away with the impression that he pulled the monument down single handedly. He certainly was crowing that day.

Blaine Young

Fox

Comment deleted.
Richard Reinders

Fox remember you have the right to remain silent and I suggest you heed this for your own protection.

Augustin de la Sierra

Mr. Fox made an offer to the District Attorney's Office to settle this. It was rejected. It appears so far the District Attorney had no counteroffer. The District Attorney's office apparently thinks this case is worth the taxpayer dollars to pursue to the bitter end. I have doubts that this is a good use of taxpayer money.

New Mexico District Courts are backed up to the hilt. The public defenders office is swamped. I believe many people are not getting justice in no small part. And here we have a District Attorney who appears to think Stephen Fox's case is worth incredibly precious court time and taxpayers' money. I am sure many people support making an example of Fox and the others. I, on the other hand, am concerned about the many other lawsuits and prosecutions delayed because of this one.

I think it's possible the outcome in the other prosecutions for the obelisk's toppling may help Mr. Fox. Delay may be Mr. Fox's best strategy. Else onward to discovery and the trial. Worst case, with Mr. Fox representing himself, he gets three years in prison (with a lot of time off for good behavior?) and a fine of $10,000.

Meanwhile I am going to take a hard look at the District Attorney (Mary Carmack-Altweis) and decide whether what is going on here will change my vote when she is up for re-election.

Khal Spencer

Fox's actions seem like parody. Attempting to buy one's way out of a felony for a thousand bucks on a high profile incident? I suppose it is up to Mr. Fox to give it a try but suspect the optics would be bad. Kinda like the Capitol invaders asking to be let off in return for cleaning up their mess and writing a small check.

You want to take the law into your own hands, you are at the mercy of the law.

Augustin de la Sierra

I am not seeing comparison of Fox to the January 6 brownshirted thugs as apt.

Khal Spencer

Thugs are thugs. Your color blindedness to left vs. right ain't my problem.

Gerald Montoya

Don't do the crime if can't do the time. Mr. Fox is just another entitle idiot that believes he's above the law. His offer to bribe the legal system show what little respect this fellow has for the rule of law and should be a red flag for the judge and prosecution. The prosecutor has been handed a guilty verdict on a silver platter ..... that's if the prosecutor doesn't drop the ball.... or the judge fails to uphold the law... Mr. Fox should be found guilty and prosecuted to the full extent of the law to send a message the other idiots out there that also have little regard for the rule of law and respect for societal norms.

Gerald Joyce

Maybe it would clarify exactly what transpired if Mr. Fox was to be tried on this crime. He would be able to call the Mayor, Police Chief and Mr. Cha on in his defense. They would have to testify truthfully or face the consequences. Either way they would be on the record

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] They should be forced to testify, and I think they can be.

Stefanie Beninato

Fox thinks he is above the law. He enters grocery stores and operates a business without a mask. This offer was probably his idea of showmanship.

Khal Spencer

Sounds like Fox is trying to implicate the Mayor in a conspiracy. As to the statement “When one of the 40 or so activists handed me the rope, I gladly accepted..." that sounds like a plea of guilty.

Mike Johnson

Indeed he is Khal, and he should call Webber as his first defense witness to that end. After all, the rioters who stormed the Capital have blamed Trump for directing their actions, much to the delight of the press, and political and judicial forces. Why not try the same thing here?

Richard Reinders

That is because Webber lit the fuse that started the problem. And I agree he just pleaded guilty.

Martin Perea

Fox is adding insult to injury by offering a measly $1,000 to weasel out of his charges. It proves that he, like Mayor Webber does not understand the priceless value of Santa Fe's culture and the monuments that commemorate its greatness. I am grateful to Judge Lidyard for declining this arrogant suggestion. Fox needs to stand trial like any other common criminal.

Andrew Lucero

I hope this idiot serves every single day of the 3 years and has to pay the fine. It's a shame the fine is only 10K... He is old enough to know better and should face the full consequences of his actions.

Richard Reinders

He should have offered $10,000, no one wants an old man to go to jail and let Webber serve the time as the ring leader, Fox outted him in this article and none of this would have happened if not for Webber pulling back the police and encouraging the 3 Sisters.

Dan Frazier

Sounds like Fox needs to be sentenced to 12 years of public schooling, preferably in some other state. If that doesn't work, maybe four years of college after that.

Steve Fitzer

You sound cruel and vengeful.

Martin Perea

It is not cruel to demand justice.

Barry Rabkin

Martin, you are exactly correct !!!

zach miller

Justice would be reconciliation for the trail of tears, not retribution for removing a statue of the very people who committed genocide on the natives.

David Brown

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