The Obelisk Nine

Three more obelisk cases to continue in District Court

Three accused in the destruction of the Plaza obelisk on Indigenous Peoples Day will face their charges in state District Court.

Dawn Furlong, Lily Schweitzer and Ryan Witt, charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors, had their preliminary examinations set for Tuesday morning in Santa Fe Magistrate Court. After their lawyers waived those proceedings, the cases will now move forward in District Court.

The procedural move is not a coincidence. Assistant District Attorney Richard Wilson, who oversees eight of the nine obelisk cases, tells SFR he met with defense attorneys for each of the accused. While they were not able to reach a deal, the group did concede that they needed more time to talk.

"In that meeting I think everyone realized that we're tight on time…We hadn't come up with a solution that everybody was happy with," Wilson says. "What I'm doing now is, I'm dealing with defense attorneys to get their cases into District Court because the time frames are different. We have way more time in District Court."

Meanwhile, the obelisk eight have recently become the obelisk nine.

On Friday, the Santa Fe Police Department announced it had charged another person in relation to Indigenous Peoples Day—Zachary Young—a 26-year-old who faces charges of criminal damage to property over $1,000 and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property (over $1,000), both felonies. He's also accused of unlawful assembly, a petty misdemeanor, and criminal trespass and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer during an arrest, both misdemeanors.

Young has not been arrested but has been summoned to Santa Fe Magistrate Court for a first appearance on March 11 at 10am.

Wilson says Young is working on securing a defense attorney and that he will also be invited to be a part of any potential deal the group is able to work out.

The other defendants have pending court dates as well.

Downtown gallery owner Stephen Fox is charged with criminal damage to property (over $1,000), conspiracy to commit criminal damage and unlawful assembly. He has a docket call on Feb. 24.

Melissa Rose and Lauren Straily, mother and daughter, have preliminary examinations scheduled for March 9.

Dylan Wrobel, another defendant, has a jury selection hearing set for June 1.

SFPD refiled charges against Sean Sunderland, who faces misdemeanor counts, in Santa Fe Municipal Court. He has a pre-trial hearing on March 31.

The change in venue for Sunderland comes after SFPD bungled his case twice—the first time when SFPD officer Jesse Campbell didn't appear for a hearing, resulting in its dismissal. (Judge Donita Sena put it back on the docket when it could not be determined whether the Santa Fe County Magistrate Court had properly notified Campbell of the hearing date.)

In late January, Campbell failed to file a witness list on time and didn't respond to a motion seeking exclusion of witness testimony. Sena ruled that no witness testimony will be allowed as a result of the mistake. That's when SFPD refiled the charges in Municipal Court.

Kitren Fischer, who represents several of the obelisk defendants, including Sunderland, called the refiled charges "blatant forum shopping," which is "prohibited by law."

"SFPD did not like the ruling from Magistrate Court, so now SFPD wants to start over with a new judge in Municipal Court," Fischer tells SFR via text.

SFPD Deputy Chief of Operations Paul Joye writes SFR via email that Campbell's actions are not forum shopping.

"The handling officer's refiling in Municipal Court is being done in compliance with the established rules of both Magistrate and Municipal Court," Joye writes. "As the case was dismissed without prejudice by the handling officer, he was able to refile and has chosen to do so."

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.