A failed New Mexico political candidate has been indicted on a charge of allegedly organizing and carrying out a plan to shoot at the houses of Democrats and officials who certified his losing election.
“My client maintains his innocence. He’s very adamant about that,” Peña’s attorney, Elizabeth Honce, told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Peña, a 40-year-old Republican, lost a race for a state House seat in November by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. He complained that his defeat was rigged, echoing right-wing conspiracy theories of election fraud. Peña visited the homes of multiple county commissioners and urged them not to certify the election results, according to prosecutors.
After commissioners certified the election, Peña allegedly hired Demetrio and Jose Trujillo to help with the shooting plot. The trio is accused of shooting into the Albuquerque homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners who certified the election and two New Mexico state legislators, state Sen. Linda Lopez and state Rep. Javier Martínez, both Democrats, between Dec. 4 and Jan. 3.
The shootings prompted accusations that the stolen-election rhetoric among supporters of former president Donald Trump continues to incite violence.
New details emerge about plot to shoot at New Mexico Democrats’ homes
“There is no room in our democracy for politically motivated violence, especially when it is used to undermine election results,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. said while announcing the indictment.
Investigators say at least three of the shootings occurred while children — including the sleeping 10-year-old daughter of a state senator — and other relatives of the victims were at home.
Former Bernalillo County commissioner Debbie O’Malley drew a line directly from her home being shot at Dec. 11 to Trump’s false claims of a stolen election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“You think it wouldn’t happen here, that someone would do this to local officials,” O’Malley has said. “There’s been this narrative for a long time: If you don’t get your way, it’s okay to be violent. The message came from the top. It came from Trump.”
“President Trump had nothing to do with this, and any assertion otherwise is totally reprehensible,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung previously said.
Even after New Mexico shootings, little GOP reckoning over election denialism
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina has said he has no doubt that Peña was motivated by Trump’s false claims of election fraud following the former president’s 2020 defeat. Medina said Peña claimed on social media to have attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
Before running for office, Democrats tried and failed to have Peña removed from the ballot, citing his criminal record. Peña served nearly seven years in prison on charges related to a smash-and-grab scheme that included burglary, larceny and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
If convicted in this case, prosecutors say, Peña faces a mandatory minimum of 60 years in prison.
Source: Washington Post
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