Months after being accused of slashing dozens of car tires, a former Republican congressional candidate has been sentenced to prison for aggravated stalking and misdemeanor stalking.
On Tuesday afternoon in Albuquerque, District Court Judge Stanley Whitaker sentenced Gary Smith to 30 months in prison and a year of supervised parole. Smith was also ordered to pay restitution to his victims. Smith was given credit for 17 months he's already served behind bars at the Bernalillo County Metro Detention Center awaiting trial.
Smith, who was booted from the 2012 Republican primary ballot in New Mexico’s first congressional district by a judge before the election, was arrested later that year when surveillance cameras showed him puncturing vehicle tires at the home of eventual party nominee Janice Arnold-Jones and cutting the tires on another car owned by his late manager Rhead Story. Within days of posting bond in Dec. 2012, Smith was seen on the same camera systems lingering around his victims’ homes again on New Year’s Day 2013. He was arrested the next day and charged with a felony.
Smith pleaded no contest on May 20, on the eve of his trial, but today attempted to tell Whitaker that he was confused at the time.
“I was told I was pleading innocent,” Smith said. “That the charges were being dropped."
But Whitaker reminded Smith that he had been in the courtroom and personally accepted the plea after asking Smith if he knew the consequences of a no contest plea.
“I’m concerned that you still don’t get it,” said Whitaker adding he was confident that Smith was the man seen on video. “I’m shocked and surprised by your actions.”
Smith, who never made a statement or offered a clue about his motivation, tried to invoke legal rules to stop the sentencing, but Whitaker says he’ll have plenty of time to hire attorneys and draft an appeal.
Before sentencing, John Jones, a retired Navy Commander and husband of Arnold-Jones, told the court that Smith had terrorized his family for 18 days and urged the judge to keep Smith locked up.
“The judge was fair and assessed the case fairly. I think Gary needs a mental evaluation and hopefully they'll do that for him in prison,” Jones tells SFR.
Jones claims his family spent close to $4,000 replacing 19 tires on a 2009 F-150 and 2003 Ford Expedition. Wanda Story, Rhead Story’s widow, estimated that she spent close to $3,000 replacing 54 tires between June and December 2012. Frank Ruvolo and Charlie Tipton, two other Bernalillo County Republican Party officials, also had multiple tires slashed during the same period. They suspect Smith is responsible for puncturing 19 of their tires. Smith was not criminally charged in those cases.
Story, who recalls confronting Smith near their carport while he was still holding what looked like an ice pick, also addressed the court. Smith, Story says, began slashing her car tires in June 2007 and didn’t let up until he was taken into custody.
“You’d think this is something a teenager would do,” Story told the judge.
“I’m worried if he gets out, my family will be in danger,” Story told SFR before the sentencing, which marked the second anniversary to the day of the first time she found her tires slashed.
SFR contacted Arnold-Jones by telephone in Oaklahoma City.
"He turned our world updside down," says Arnold-Jones. "With his erratic behavior, I'm not convinced that we would have been safe it he was released today."
Smith won’t be walking out of jail anytime soon. He faces extradition to Texas where he faces similar charges. Smith’s former El Paso neighbor’s Kenneth and Esther Propps told SFR last year they instantly recognized Smith in Arnold-Jone’s surveillance video. The Propps claim Smith punctured their tires and attempted to burn down their home when he lived next door between 2008 and 2012.