The District Attorney’s Office has reached an agreement with all but one of the protesters charged in connection with the October destruction of the Santa Fe Plaza obelisk that will allow them to avoid jail time.

In a move District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said is designed to further reconciliation in the community, the defendants will be allowed to participate in a pre-prosecution diversion program that will include at least some community service.

“It was my promise upon assuming this position that our office would do our best to divert non-violent and first-time offenders from costly and unnecessary incarceration,” Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “The Obelisk case defendants meet the criteria I set out for diversionary programming. We have reached a resolution after months of careful investigation and negotiation between defendants, their attorneys, and my office that ensures justice while working toward community healing.”

But for some Santa Feans, especially longtime residents who are Hispanic, the deal only sparked more controversy.

Former City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who has decried the destruction of the obelisk as well as the removal of a statute of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas from a downtown park, said the justice system failed to hold the protesters accountable for their crimes.

“What a crock of crap that these people who were involved in vandalizing city property technically get off with a slap on the wrist,” he said. “All this time there was talk about justice, justice will come, these people will be held accountable. Where’s the accountability? They’re not being held accountable.”

Virgil Vigil, president of Union Protectíva de Santa Fé, which is said to be the oldest Spanish fraternal organization in the nation, echoed the sentiment.

“It’s a shame that we have people that commit crimes, and they have no punishment for them,” he said. “They’re criminals.”

Vigil and Trujillo laid the blame on Mayor Alan Webber, who had called in June for the removal of the obelisk and two other controversial monuments in the city. The 132-year-old obelisk long had been a source of controversy and deemed racist over its inscriptions, which stated it was dedicated, in part, to the “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians.”

Efforts to remove the obelisk stalled after the mayor called for its removal, prompting protesters to take matters into their own hands and tear the monument down with a rope and chains on Indigenous Peoples Day.

The toppling of the obelisk exposed long-simmering racial tensions in the city, which seemed to resurface with Thursday’s announcement.

“These out-of-town transplants don’t care about our people or our culture,” Vigil said, referring to Webber and Carmack-Altwies.

In a statement, Webber said the agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and seven of the eight defendants holds those charged in connection with the toppling of the obelisk “accountable for restitution to the community, so justice is served.”

“It also engages all parties in a process of restorative justice that aims to heal wounds and reconcile grievances,” Webber said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett Macias said first-time offenders charged with nonviolent offenses would not be facing jail or prison time associated with the crime of criminal damage to property over $1,000 “in this jurisdiction.”

“Here we actually have a creative and innovative resolution that looks at the historical trauma — we’re not disregarding that — and tries to reconcile that historical trauma but also address the actual harm that was caused by the manner and method by which the defendants removed the obelisk,” she said.

One of the defendants, Dylan Wrobel, had also been charged with felony battery on a peace officer. The city said in a news release the police department had been working with the District Attorney’s Office and “supports the resolution as agreed to in these cases.”

Other defendants in the agreement include Dawn Furlong, Lily Schweitzer, Ryan Witt, Melissa Rose, Lauren Straily and Zachary Young.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the pre-prosecution diversion program will consist of a combination of community service hours and a “restorative justice” approach that will engage defendants and others to determine the next steps. The process will be led by Common Ground Mediation Services.

“The defendants have agreed to participate fully, which includes acknowledgement of their actions, and participation in any resolutions that arise as part of the restorative justice process,” the District Attorney’s Office news release stated. “Should any of the defendants fail to participate fully, or complete the terms of the program, their cases will be placed back on the court’s docket for prosecution.”

Exactly what the “resolution” will be remains to be determined.

“I guess ‘nebulous’ is a good word because it crafts itself” through the process, Padgett Macias said.

The District Attorney’s Office is poised to pay $1,500 in seed money for the restorative justice process, and the remainder will be paid by the defendants.

“The program will last a minimum of six months and must be completed within two years,” a news release states.

“Both the presence of and the toppling of the Obelisk left people within our community deeply hurting,” Carmack-Altwies said in the statement. “I am pleased that we are pursuing a method of justice that will begin to heal those wounds. This is a new and innovative way of dealing with harm in the community that will move us closer to reconciliation.”

Of the eight protesters charged with felony counts of damaging property worth over $1,000, only one, gallery owner Stephen Fox, is not part of the agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.

“That’s mostly because and kind of complicated by the fact that he doesn’t have counsel,” Padgett said.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(66) comments

Richard Forrest

I’ve never heard such dancing around rhetorical BS to explain away justice for criminals. When can we expect those charged with crimes to be paid restitution by the city for their inconvenience?

Russell Scanlon

It is obvious that as a “newcomer” I have no right to make any comment or voice an opinion on this particular delicate issue. So be it. So just some general comments to the peanut gallery:

History is not static. It is alive and intertwined with the present. And all the events of colonization, slavery, Manifest Destiny are constantly being reevaluated from the perspective of the present. The contributions of the non-European and Native peoples are being acknowledged and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Power and perspective will shift with time, no matter how much we want to cling to our vision of the past. The term “savage natives” was offensive and was a legitimate point of contention for decades.

If you commit an act of civil disobedience you should be prepared to face punishment—jail time, community service, etc. This is why we still hold the civil rights movement of the 60’s in high regard. Those brave citizens were well aware that they would be harassed, beaten, jailed, and possibly killed for their beliefs. This should also apply to the Plaza protestors who chose to destroy the obelisk and for every single MAGA thug who desecrated our nation’s capitol on January 6th.

I still think that the Plaza protests could have been far worse—that’s really all I wanted to say. And that I really love this place—and I chose to live here.

Khal Spencer

Russell, although we sometimes spar, I am glad you are a member of this community and thank you for your comment. As we say in my profession, sometimes you need "a fresh set of eyes" on a problem and a newcomer provides that set of ojos frescos. Of course, I've only lived in NNM for 20 years and Santa Fe for three.

My issue with this incident is there should have been no sense of urgency. We were in the middle of a pandemic and a relatively inexperienced mayor was dealing with a major crisis costing lives. No statue or monument was going hungry, homeless, denied the right to vote, trying to find an ICU bed, or forced to live in designated, red-lined areas. While the obelisk undoubtedly rubbed some raw, it was not a matter of immediate life or health. These folks just had to have their way and have it now. That was inappropriate given the complexity of the issue and this place's history and the ongoing public health crisis.

My comment about signboards? There was a judge on Maui back when I lived on Oahu who, rather than jail some offenders, made them hold a sign up on the edge of town apologizing for their crime. They had to do that for a few days. Apparently that was considered cruel and unusual by an appellate court. I thought it was appropriate, saved the public money, gave an offender a chance to feel embarrassed by their acts, and kept the offender from being abused in the Greybar Hotel by hardened criminals.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box on these issues. Grappling hooks are easy. Long term solutions are harder.

Russell Scanlon

Thx—I always appreciate what you have to say.

William Saunders

“The City Different”…….for sure

Kirk Holmes

Time for another license plate offering from the MVD. I propose: “New Mexico, Land of Reckless Abandonment”, or Land of Lawlessness”.

Khal Spencer

I'm not sure that hard time in the Greybar Hotel is appropriate, but the slap on the wrist, if its even that, angers me too. We have gotten to the point where people are storming Congress, taking over parts of cities (CHOP/CHAZ), and wrecking public monuments because the social justice police and the right wing patriots think their acting out is appropriate. Neither the vandals who wrecked the monument here nor the clowns who stormed Congress should be let off the hook with a wrist slap. It sends the wrong message.

Democratic processes are slow and hard. But if you want to resort to instant gratification via violence, either against people or against inanimate objects, beware of what you wish for.

Restorative justice in this case would be, to me, spending the next year fixing all the medians, picking up all the litter, supplying food to the homeless and homebound, and wearing a signboard saying "I apologize for being an a**"

Dennis Martinez

Shame shame shame! Unbelievable! Desacérate monuments and landmarks and get away with the vandalism. This is a slap in the face to us native Santa Feans!

Janet Eduardo

“These out-of-town transplants don’t care about our people or our culture,” Vigil said. I, for one, am getting a little tired of Vigil's anti-anyone not born in Santa Fe rhetoric. Since he thinks I, who CHOSE Santa Fe (as opposed to being there because I was born there) doesn't "care about our people or our culture" is he willing to work on getting my taxes rebated, since he apparently doesn't want me or anyone else who CHOSE Santa Fe to have ANY say about what goes on there? I'm pretty sure I care more about Santa Fe's people and culture than the colonizers cared about the original inhabitants of the Santa Fe area.

Lee Vigil

I had to re-read what was meant by the sentencing. This is the relevant part of the article:

The pre-prosecution diversion program will consist of a combination of community service hours and a “restorative justice” approach that will engage defendants and others to determine the next steps.

On the Common Ground Mediation Service's website, this is how 'restorative justice' is defined:

Reparations that are brainstormed in RJ arise from both the harmed party and the person who did the harm, and are designed to directly restore the harmed party personally—both materially and psychologically.

I highly doubt that there are going to be conversations between the community and the defendants. Chacon also points out that exactly what the “resolution” will be remains to be determined.

The defendants attend mediation and their slate is clean. No convictions, no punishment. They must be thanking their lucky stars and laughing at the community that welcomed them. This is what you get when you commit multiple felonies and misdemeanors in Santa Fe? This is like kindergarten class for criminals. This is a hard fail.

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

Will Webber and Renee also be serving community service since they are part of the original instigators of this destruction of property? Disgusted!

Vince Czarnowski

This is the same justice system that has been used in Chicago, New York and Portland. In other words, when you commit a serious crime, nothing happens. This woman needs to be voted out.

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MJ Paul

Thank you so much for acting as the SFNM comment police and labeling others in the discussion as MAGA Minions, Fox News watchers... You might want to provide facts on why Portland, Chicago.. are doing well, in light of calling others out on not providing the necessary facts. Before you start on me, I am a registered Democrat.

Jim Klukkert

You are so welcome MJ PAUL, though being a registered Democrat draws little water for me.

Terriby busy making a living today, but with first hand accounts from long time friends in Portland assure me that there has been much Alt-Right exaggeration on the situation there.

I in no way suggested that Portland or Chicago are "doing well." Things have been tough since Reagan for working folks, Clintons were no help whatsoever, and Obama barely scratched the surface, though what could we expect from a centrist, no matter how gifted his speech.

So dig a little deeper M. Paul, and let us know your 'inside' story on two cities where I lived and maintain close relationships. If you sling MAGA poop, I will return, at my convenience to clean up your mess, party affiliation not withstanding.

Richard Reinders

I heard Chicago is bringing back segregation, there's progress for you.

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MJ Paul

Not a pretty boy, pretty girl. Just goes to show how off we can be when labeling others.

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MJ Paul

"The Public Square is a rough place today, often devoid of civility and decent, respectful discussion. Can’t we do better? Are we not concerned that all but angry white men are discouraged from the discussions that are the very life blood of democracy?"

Angel Ortiz

How typical of our City Government and District Attorney. This sends a very negative message and is less than a slap on the wrist. The individuals involved in the vandalism of our plaza should have received full punishment. A few days incarcerated in general population would have done them a world of good. What a shame.

David Ford

It is really funny reading some of the "outrage" here and especially from you well known GQP retrumplicans posting here. I say, as do your "dear leaders" when addressing the Capitol Insurrection, time to simply "MOVE ON"! After all it was just a mob of mild-mannered tourists checking out the building and of course ONLY 5 people died.....

Jim Klukkert


Lee Vigil

Mr. Ford - clearly you haven't been reading the comments... or perhaps just reading what you'd like to conclude - confirmation bias, perhaps, "funny" it isn't. Many of the folks who've been outraged about what occurred on the plaza aren't right-wingers, including myself. Many folks outraged by the violence and assaults during the Santa Fe plaza riot equated them to the U.S. Capitol riot.

When a group of like-minded people come together to trespass, destroy public property, and assault police, it is a riot, not a protest. It would've been a further tragedy had someone died and judging by various accounts of the melee, it wasn't outside the realm of possibilities.

This conclusion is a travesty of justice, sends the wrong message, and reinforces what many communities have concluded about the justice system. It's okay to assault police, destroy public property, etc., ... if you're white. This is the epitome of white privilege on display right here. Imagine how different the response, political and law enforcement, would've been if the same thing had occurred on the plaza or on the town center of any community, had the perpetrators been local Latinos.

As for Webber's statement of support for the rioters that characterizes the resolution that “... engages all parties in a process of restorative justice that aims to heal wounds and reconcile grievances, and holds the accused accountable for restitution to the community, so justice is served.” What? He speaks for himself and shows how unfit he is to lead the city. This statement displays more of the nonsensical fairy tale that seems to play in Webber's brain nonstop. He's so clueless and so biased against the majority of the people he governs.

MJ Paul


Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

Spot on Mr. Vigil! None of the Pueblos supported this action taken by Three Sisters and their Woke, white privilege supporters! Of course Webber would have to know the community he represents to care to hear both sides before bowing to the loudest voice!

Lee Vigil

Webber ~=~= white paternalism. He's arrived on the scene and knows what is best for us, we just missed it... for the last 400 years. Like Trump, he thought he "knew" how to govern because he was successful at business. Like Trump, he lies all the time. Like Trump, he takes credit for the hard work of others.

Democracy, however, is a pretty dangerous dragon to slay.

So far he's done a decent job tearing up the plaza and dividing the populace, but still can't manage basic governance -- like keeping the city clean and tidy of litter and trash, weeding and beautifying the medians, and payroll.

His admin scr*ws up payroll and shorts folks on their retirement contributions, and we learn of it through the media after an aspiring retiree inquires about their retirement date. I don't know which is worse, that perhaps his admin didn't know about the error or that they lied through omission. They never shared which it was. This is some really basic stuff that this guy can't deliver, and yet he's stuck his foot in ancient, complex grievances he doesn't understand. It's intellectually lazy to view the obelisk in the lens of 2020.

People who can govern get in front of these issues, they fix the things they break, apologize, and strive for improvement. Not this guy. He egged it on. He broke it, but this can't be fixed.

His statement reads like vindication, like he's patting himself on the back. You know he thinks he knows what's best for us, we just don't know it. To h*ll with what we little people think. You know he thinks he's won.

Jim Klukkert

Lee Vigil-

I believe that Mr. Ford’s comment, “It is really funny reading some of the "outrage" here … especially from you well known GQP retrumplicans…” is directed towards commenters widely known as Trump supporters who often seek to opportunistically score political points on issues only distantly related to the subject at hand.

I would not want to speak for Mr. Ford, but I am often on the same side of issues as he. That said:

I am deeply aggrieved that Law Enforcement were physically engaged by a few of the mob on the the plaza, and deeply saddened that the Obelisk was toppled by folks way out of line in their entitlement.

No matter how well intended to fight racism, those folks, strike that, fools they are, had no business making an irreversible decision for the community. The scar they have left at the center of our community is most serious in the ways that are not quite tangible: that violent vandalism has torn the fabric of our community, and no retribution against these self-important perpetrators will begin to mend that rip.

I actually thought the monument was a living monument, incorporating the distant past and thoughtfully modified more recently by a man who, posing as a government worker, chiseled away racist sentiments offensive to many, perhaps most of us. What a wonderful teachable moment, and I often proudly told the story to visitors, both strangers and friends alike.

Now that opportunity is forever gone.

So where now? I think one of the more worthy comments today on this pages is from Augustin de la Sierra: “Spending money to prosecute and potentially imprison these defendants is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.”

These so-called radicals want to Serve the People through mayhem, violence and vandalism? Let this self-appointed Vanguard Serve the People, All Summer Long, Picking up Dog Poop, Cleaning Our Parks, Pulling Weeds and so on. Time for a little principled PAY BACK!

I do not need to try very hard to imagine what might have happened if the perps had been People of Color. And put this scenario in Albuquerque? Whoopee!

I cannot comment on Webber’s candidacy, that’s for you in Santa Fe to sort. I will tell you that I stopped calling myself a Progressive not long after Webber rose to prominence.

My apologies, Mr. Vigil and others, if I have not previously fully expressed my regrets regarding, and my disdain for, the sordid destruction wrought on Indigenous Peoples Day. What an insult to the very day itself. Very sad, and sadly, in keeping with these troubled times.

Lee Vigil

It's far too little solace to do as you suggest, which is be grateful that these folks don't serve time. There is no justice in this outcome.

Katherine Martinez

Let's just see the day when this mob of out-of-towners is on the streets pulling weeds, and picking up dog poop; let's just see the day. I won't hold my breath.

Russell Scanlon

As a newcomer, I don’t feel qualified to weigh in on this issue. However I wonder if anyone has considered how much worse this episode could have been, particularly during the incredible tension of election season and the constant presence of gun toting MAGA miscreants. Considering the level of violence that occurred in other cities, I think Santa Fe was pretty lucky to have escaped without a lot more mayhem.

As another commentator pointed out, sometimes a sign of success in politics is that everyone is unhappy your decision. I don’t think these protestors should go to jail but I do think they should do some heavy community service. . And there is a LOT of trash to be picked up around here.

Kirk Allison

Thanks for confirming that these "MAGA miscreants" aren't the problem, Russell. By your assertion that they're always around "toting their guns," and there hasn't been any mayhem from them, it's clear they are not the lawless ones.

If only you and others on the left were so quick to belittle actual rioters, vandals, and arsonists, maybe we wouldn't have so much crime.

Jim Klukkert

Nope, Kirk Allison, there hasn't been any mayhem from [the MAGA miscreants] unless you want to count the treasonous January 6th attempt at insurrection, invoking martial law on behalf of nulifying the recent Presidential election on behalf of Dear Leader.

Nothing to see here, move along folks...

But wait there is more!

There is no logical sequence to your "If only you and others on the left were so quick..." and further, that's what you claim we on the left do, far from the reality of things.

Sorry Allison, you are off base on all counts.

Kirk Allison

You mean the January 6th protest where the only gun violence was when the DC cop killed a woman? Cluck, cluck, Klukkert.

Jim Klukkert

Yes, Mr. Kirk Allison, I do mean the January 6th protest where the only gun violence was when the DC cop killed a MAGA driven insurrectionary traitor?

Oh wow Mr. Allison, clever boy aren't you? No one had ever called me out as Cluck, cluck, Klukkert.

Actually, I am better know as Mother Klukker. Meet me sometime and you may find out way, wise guy.

Russell Scanlon

For many weekends after the election we had to endure the braying voices of the “stop the Steal” crowd. Then the statehouse was barricaded for months. And yes—many of the MAGA folks were toting guns. There was mayhem. These are facts. Don’t try to tell us otherwise.

Peter Wyman

You are correct. You're not qualified to weigh in on the issue.

Katherine Martinez


Russell Scanlon

Well thanks for pulling up the welcome wagon there. Just trying to lower to temperature, but no good deed goes unpunished apparently.

MJ Paul

As a community we should all be troubled at the poor leadership, decision making, and vision shown by our mayor, Alan Webber, in creating such a mess in the heart of our community. Unfortunately the Obelisk fiasco was not an isolated incident, as we have all watched and experienced the poor operation of basic city services in Santa Fe. Apparently Webber believes his poor performance is the basis for running again for another term as mayor. I can't recall a more disliked mayor in Santa Fe in over 3 decades.

Russell Scanlon

Don’t believe everything you think you know about Portland. Or at least visit there before you repeat FOX news drivel.

Pam Walker

This is bull. Those people should do jail time. You are opening it up to any group that wants to be idiots and protest whatever.

Mark Stahl

Maybe they can pick up trash and pull weeds across the city.

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo


Pete Seitz

Welcome to Portland

Jim Klukkert

Pete Seitz- as Russell Scanlon so well put the truth out there for you and other MAGA Minions-

"Don’t believe everything you think you know about Portland. At least visit there before you repeat FOX news drivel."

Portland is doing just fine with minimal hiccups. Thanks for your concern, but not neccesary, nor is your concernb/comment well intended, Mr. Seitz.

Katherine Martinez

Oh Kluck, here is some non-Fox 'drivel' for you and your friends to digest.

John Cook

Good for our new DA! Part of the community thinks this is a terrible decision because toppling the obelisk was the right and just thing to do. Part of the community thinks the topplers should get life in prison. She has made the smart play even though she no doubt knew she would be criticized by both sides. I suspect she will be fine because there are still enough sane people in Santa Fe who believe a compromise makes good sense.

Richard Reinders

She is no different than the DA in LA that they are recalling, short of murder they are too lazy to do their job and forget they work for the people of Santa Fe. They are turning Santa Fe into Portland, people wake up and get rid of the woke in the next elections, clean house before it is too late and you find out you live in the most dangerous city in America.

Lupe Molina

Why you so scared bro?

Richard Reinders

I am afraid for Santa Fe, if you take your blinders off and look at the CHOP zone in Seattle , the constant burning in Portland, the extremely high crime rates in LA the high murder rate in Chicago and ABQ. you should be afraid they started somewhere like we did.

Vince Czarnowski

Yeah, I am scared "bro". You should visit Chicago to see how this kind of justice system works. I don't want Santa Fe turning into Chicago.

Jim Klukkert

Richard Reinders, have you spent anytime in Portland lately? Do you know anyone who actually lives there?

Time to stop smoking the MAGA/FAUX NEWS pipe with Mr. Pete Seitz, Richard

Richard Reinders

I bet you have . So there was no fires in Portland , that's not what I have heard from not FOX sources

Lupe Molina

Agreed. Luckily none of these keyboard cowboys serve in our judicial system.

Jim Klukkert


Augustin de la Sierra

I agree. Spending money to prosecute and potentially imprison these defendants is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Angel Ortiz

What part of the community believes this? No one in my barrio. The Native Americans didn't ask for help from these vandals. The District Attorney and the Mayor have no loyalty to our community.

Dennis Martinez

Agree with you Angel!

Katherine Martinez

Exactly. It's these WHITE GUILT loyalists who think they are doing are community a favor, they know who they are.

Moses Townsend

Sounds like such a Santa Fe approach to the situation lol. They’re just using hippie-esque pseudo “peaceful” language to describe that they’re basically getting let off the hook.

Diane Gonzales

Perfect way to sum it up!

Mike Johnson

The very definition of soft on crime, they should be listed as convicted felons.

Daniel Gresham

Agree. What nonsense. Plus a real slap in the face of the hispanic community.

Khal Spencer

In other news, the DA's Office has invested in a lead balloon to fly over the courthouse.

Peter Romero

What a joke !

Andrew Lucero

What a complete and utter travesty! Could our DA be any more incompetent?

Gerald Montoya

This is what they call "Getting away with just a slap on the hand." Disgusting

Ralph Montez

Miscarriage of justice.

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