Flashlight Beating Results In Probation

November 9, 2012


Stories about crimes that make the news have one major problem associated with them. They often tend to be items that, by their nature, raise the bile in your throat. While they may be very interesting to hear about, they usually are presented in ways that seem designed to elicit the deepest gut reaction. This happens in Texas, New Mexico and every other state in the country.

The reason we find this to be such an issue, whether the case deals with state or federal crimes, is that by ginning up the emotional aspects of such cases, the cause of justice is often tossed under the bus. Our system of justice, rooted as it is in the notion of innocence until proven guilty, is meant to subdue action based on gut reaction in favor of the rule of law.

This happens to come to mind right now because of a federal case that was recently put to rest across the border in New Mexico. A former San Juan County Sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of a Navajo tribe member when he beat the man with a flashlight during a March 2011 stop.

The 57-year-old deputy has already lost his job because of this crime. The man he assaulted has also settled a lawsuit against the county for $250,000. Now, as a result of his plea deal, the one-time deputy is looking at three to five years of probation. He could have received 10 years in prison.

The assault by an officer of the law was clearly criminal. The people of the Navajo nation and the rest of the country have a right to feel angry that it happened. But they have equal reason to feel pleased that, as our founding fathers intended, justice was pursued in a way that upheld the rights of everyone, the accused, the victim and the people.