NATIONAL NEWS

New Mexico man pleads guilty in drive-by shootings on homes of Democratic lawmakers

Jan 9, 2024, 12:11 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — One of three defendants has pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of state and local lawmakers in Albuquerque after the 2022 election, according to federal court filings made public Tuesday.

Jose Louise Trujillo pleaded guilty at a Monday hearing to charges of conspiracy, election interference, illegal use of a firearm and fentanyl possession with the intent to distribute. Federal and local prosecutors allege that the attacks were orchestrated by former Republican candidate Solomon Peña with the involvement of Trujillo and a third man. Peña maintains his innocence.

The attacks on the homes of four Democratic officials, including the current state House speaker, took place in December 2022 and January 2023 amid a surge of threats and acts of intimidation against elections workers and public officials across the country after former President Donald Trump and his allies spread false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Trujillo, 22, is due to be sentenced in April. His attorney, John Anderson, declined to comment on the plea agreement beyond what is in the court records.

Alexander Uballez, the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, has said the shootings targeted the homes of two county commissioners shortly after and because of their certification of the 2022 election, in which Peña lost his bid to serve in the state legislature. No one was injured, but in one case bullets passed through the bedroom of a state senator’s 10-year-old daughter.

Trujillo will remain in custody pending sentencing, Uballez and FBI special agent in charge Raul Bujanda said Tuesday in a statement, which also outlined accusations that Trujillo was paid by Peña in efforts to pressure Bernalillo County commissioners to refuse to certify local election results.

Demetrio Trujillo, Jose’s father, also faces federal charges alleging that he and and his son helped Peña obtain vehicles and firearms and that they also fired on victims’ homes.

Peña and Demetrio Trujillo, who maintains his innocence, are scheduled to stand trial in June.

Jose Trujillo was arrested in January on an outstanding warrant. According to authorities, in his car with him he had more than 800 fentanyl pills and two firearms, leading to a break in the investigation as officers traced at least one gun to bullet casings found at one of the shootings.

Following the shootings, New Mexico state lawmakers enacted legislation that provides felony sanctions for intimidation of election regulators and allows some public officials and political candidates to keep their home address off government websites.

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New Mexico man pleads guilty in drive-by shootings on homes of Democratic lawmakers