Just one day before his trial was scheduled to begin, former congressional candidate Gary Smith pleaded no contest to aggravated stalking after admitting he slashed the tires on vehicles belonging to his former campaign manager and 2012 Republican primary opponent.
Smith was jailed in December 2012 after a surveillance camera captured images of him puncturing tires on cars owned by Janice Arnold-Jones and her husband John Jones. After posting bond and being warned not to return to his victims' homes, Smith was arrested again on the fourth-degree felony charges when new video caught him sitting outside of Arnold-Jones' home on New Year's Day 2013.
Before accepting the plea, District Court Judge Stanley Whitaker on Tuesday afternoon in Albuquerque asked Smith if he understood his right to a trial and told him he wouldn't be able to appeal the case if he signed the agreement.
Whitaker deferred sentencing until June 3. Smith faces up to 30 months in prison, but would receive credit for time served and could be released on probation. The victims have also asked for restitution.
Wanda Story, the wife of Smith's former campaign manager Rhead Story, was in the courtroom. She tells SFR that the idea of Smith being released terrifies her. Story, whose husband died last year from heart failure, claims Smith confronted her with an ice pick in December 2012 after stabbing a set of tires.
"This man tortured us for seven months," says Story, adding that she replaced a total of 54 tires punctured by Smith over that time period.
Smith had also faced felony charges for possession of a deadly weapon and criminal tampering and damage to vehicles, but those charges were dropped in the plea arrangement.
In October, Whitaker ruled that the former Army intelligence officer and CIA analyst could represent himself in court after a dispute with court-appointed defense attorney Cynthia Leos, but Smith ultimately decided to work with Jeff Rein, another public defender, after Whitaker rejected several of his motions.
After serving his sentence, Smith could still face extradition to El Paso, Texas, to face similar charges there. After SFR posted Arnold-Jones' videos, his El Paso neighbor's Kenneth and Esther Propps said last January they instantly recognized Smith in the videos. The Propps claims Smith punctured their tires and attempted to burn down their home.
Santa Fe Reporter