District Attorney Mary Carmack- Altwies is nothing if not bold.

She had to know that placing defendants in the Plaza obelisk case into pretrial deferred prosecution would anger many — including potential voters should she run for reelection.

To further anger those who want the accused strung up, or at least, publicly shamed, Carmack-Altwiess decided to use restorative justice as part of the process.

Cue the outrage. To all who witnessed an unruly mob take down the obelisk on Indigenous Peoples Day last year, the DA’s decision to pursue an alternative sort of prosecution added insult to toppled granite.

Seven of the eight defendants in the case, instead of having the proverbial book thrown at them, instead will have an opportunity to meet with those they harmed, apologize and perform some 40 hours of community service. They will pay for the undertaking. An eighth defendant, so far, is not participating in what could be a drawn-out affair, stretching out as long as two years.

For all the people who decry mob decisions, for everyone who loved the Plaza with its obelisk, for those still angry police did not stop the destruction and for all who see the takedown as usurping the democratic process, her decision is wrong.

They wanted the book thrown at the defendants, no matter that Carmack-Altwies’ charging options — and chances of the defendants going to jail — were slim, if that.

New Mexico’s destruction of public property over $1,000 is a fourth-degree felony. In essence, a relatively minor crime.

Its penalties, for first-time offenders without a criminal record, likely would not have resulted in a jail sentence. That’s if they were convicted, no sure thing. Eight separate trials would cost tens of thousands of dollars and staff time, resources that can now be redirected.

Still, people are angry.

The obelisk is dedicated to soldiers who died in battle, both in fighting Indian wars of the 19th century and to Union soldiers who fought the Confederates in New Mexico.

On one side of what admittedly was an unattractive hunk of granite was a plaque dedicated to those who died “in the various battles with savage Indians.” The word “savage” was obliterated in 1974 by an anonymous man, and the obelisk — despite several attempts to have it moved — remained. It offended many, and as last year’s racial reckoning took place across the United States, cries grew to have it removed.

Top elected officials, including the governor, agreed the monument needed to go. Mayor Alan Webber earlier that year supported its removal, at least temporarily, while its fate could be debated. A dark-of-night attempt to do so failed; the piece was too heavy.

So it remained, until a crowd did the work unilaterally, without democratic discussion and consensus. Those actions have left a deep wound.

Many angry about the memorial believe using restorative justice is just another knife in that wound.

We urge the community to give this process a chance.

Carmack-Altwies has introduced a novel concept, but one that if done correctly, will demand much more of the defendants than a short trial and a probated sentence. The people who destroyed the obelisk have to hear from those they hurt — residents are being asked to sign up so they can explain what this memorial meant to them. Given the public at large is hurting, finding the specific participants for the group to be meaningful is not an easy task.

Injured parties could include city workers who care for the Plaza or who had to clean up the mess. Descendants of soldiers who fought in the battles against the Confederate — there are many in town — are another potentially injured group. Local Pueblo people, who have been working with the city to expand how we discuss our history, had their process upended. They might have something to say, as will local Hispanos who like their Plaza and are tired of people changing it without consulting longtime residents.

But Carmack-Altwies, in deciding to go the restorative justice route, is hardly giving the defendants a free pass. She is seeking to make them confront their actions, perform community service and eventually, make some sort of restitution. Is her solution perfect? No.

But can it move the community forward? Yes.

(22) comments

Russell Scanlon

This is all way too reasonable for folks with an axe to grind.

Andrew Lucero

I figured the publisher and editorial board of the Santa Fe New Mexican would not let Milian Simonich’s article of May 22, (“Another injustice in destruction of Santa Fe Plaza obelisk”) go unanswered. And being the extremely biased and gutless wonders that they are, they skulk in the shadows and hide behind an anonymous byline…

The District Attorney made a cowardly and moronic decision to not prosecute these vandals. Now with the help of the Santa Fe New Mexican, she is trying to gaslight the populace into believing that her myopic and phony punishment of “restorative justice” is a good deal for everyone.

I think retired State Supreme Court Justice, Richard C. Bosson summed it up perfectly when he said “Plea bargaining may be an important tool in the system, but equally so, there are cases important enough to the conscience of the community that they must be heard, not pleaded. Justice is not just a technical conclusion of law; true justice is a sense of fairness and balance to all concerned, and that includes the people of our city. Their exclusion is an intolerable injustice.”

Sadly, the New Mexican hasn’t been an objective newspaper in a very long time. Their bias not only is a disservice to their readers, but adds to the injustice that the mayor, the vandals and the DA have propagated on our city. By hiding behind an anonymous name, the New Mexican has lost its credibility and relegated itself to being nothing more than propagandists.

Mike Johnson

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Khal Spencer

As a recent addition to the city, I only have a tiny dog in this fight compared to those who have deep roots in the area. Still, the actions of the mob disgusted me.

As the Editorial Board said, these cases, had they gone to trial, would likely have resulted on what many of us consider a slap on the wrist. My understanding is if the defendants do not follow through or are not deemed to be serious about the process, the charges can still be prosecuted.

But this whole thing reeks. The city should not have allowed the rioters to tear it down in the first place but to be honest, I think the city was half-hearted about defending the obelisk from the mob, thinking that property damage was far less of a problem than a strong whiff of tear gas or a few busted heads. Well, I guess some disagree.

This issue needs to be on the ballot during election season. Making the city work is a big part of the governing body's job but so are social and cultural issues.

Samuel Herrera

The criminals just have to give half hearted participation in the program, punch the clock for 6 months, and avoid having a felony (not a minor offense) on their record. No Santa Fe New Mexican, it won’t take two years. This is a six month get out of jail free card. Get your head out of your ...

Vince Czarnowski

It is rather cowardly that the author of this "opinion" remains anonymous. To everyone who still understands what true justice is, please remember to vote the people who is responsible for this travesty, including the mayor. He is the main reason all of this happened to begin with.

KT Rivera

You just don't get it! What the citizens wanted was the defense of this precious town. Sadly, we have been sorely let down. All the opinions and justifications cannot fool the public to the true cowardice nature of the Mayor and the DA. This newspaper's opinions are a futile effort in helping these cowards. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up in defense of this city. I remain tearful and now fearful about what you have unleashed upon this city.

Mike Johnson

The naivety, or just plain partisan blind faith and bias, of the esteemed editorial board is once again astounding. Consider this from the Op/Ed: "The people who destroyed the obelisk have to hear from those they hurt — residents are being asked to sign up so they can explain what this memorial meant to them." Oh wow, how traumatic that will be for the poor perps, considering these people are political zealots and convinced of their cause, and the stupidity of anyone who questions their approach and agenda, they will be laughing all the way to Starbucks to enjoy a latte and discuss their triumphs over the ignorant public and DA with their conspirator friends. This is so obviously ridiculous and a gross miscarriage of justice, all based on partisan political grounds, how can anyone seriously entertain this process????

Peter Romero

This could have been a teaching moment. To show others what could happen to you when you break the law. Now we have taught others nothing will happen to you in Santa Fe.

Prince Michael Jauregui

"Punishment"? "Bold"? Truly, neither word is applicable in this latest facade presented as Justice.

Be clear: With criminal defendants consisting -mostly- of Female Caucasians, suddenly, the D.A.'s office is compelled to apply the cunningly labeled "Restorative Justice"? Yet, the county jail and state prisons are filled with Hispano-American and Native-American men and women whom were allowed no such option?

Shamefully, this is the same, tired and grossly unfair two-tiered ""Justice" that has long existed, only under a different, crafty name.

Again: Carmack-Altwies can best fairly serve the community with her immediate resignation.

Meanwhile, The Santa Fe New Mexican, your ownership is showing - yet again.

Andrew Lucero

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Mike Johnson

Well said hermano. If this so-called DA had any integrity and sense of justice for the people, not politics, she would resign immediately. I have seen so many incompetent and wrong-headed approaches in NM, but I never thought I would see something so outrageous as this.

Barry Rabkin

I did not want the "book thrown at each of them." I did want each of them to be arrested and taken to trial. I also wanted them to have whatever the maximum punishment is for their actions, hopefully including paying court costs (by garnishing their current OR future wages). Each person who participated in taking down the obelisk broke the law and should face judgement in the court of law regardless of the cost of the trial.

Mike Johnson

Agreed and well stated. I also would want this felony on their records, for all to see as they continue their lives, so future employers and other law enforcement can see what they are dealing with here.

John Haynes

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Khal Spencer

Having a felony on their record would be far more of a punishment than most of them would want to bear, as it affects later life.

Mike Johnson

Indeed Khal, and what I would want for them even without jail, make the record reflect their crime, for all to see forever.

Alexander Brown

"Our View" ?

Put your name behind your faceless editorial. Only Destruction of Public Property ?

How about Reckless Endangerment in pulling down tons of stone in a crowded public place, after assaulting police.

How about Restitution in the actual cost and value of the Obelisk being the fine.

There was and is a necessary debate about what was right and wrong about the Obelisk. Whoever chiseled off the word 'Savage " years ago acted with a balanced wisdom.

Anonymous apologists for wanton disregard for others safety and mob violence gets nothing worth having and only more of the same.

“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.” John Lennon

This applies to Left and Right.

Nothing good will come of this apologist editorial. These legal choices by Carmack-Altweis are a go ahead for more of the same.

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Richard Reinders

What about the officers that were attacked that night what about their justice, and the humility the Mayor put all the police through to stand down instead of their job to enforce the law. There is more than a Kumbya moment.

Lupe Molina

Charges were dismissed in the case of the protestor who jumped on the back of police because SFPD missed multiple deadlines. Humiliating cops is not a crime.

Lupe Molina

But it was also the right decision. Not everyone in the crowd had ropes in hand. What did you want? Them to open fire on a crowd?

Richard Reinders

your words not mine. I just want respect shown to police or the public will continue to jump on the backs of police.

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