TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – The minivan driving mom who sped away from State Police after an officer shot at her van full of kids, will not do any jail time.
Oriana Farrell took a plea deal in court Monday, one week after prosecutors and Farrell’s defense attorney made the surprise announcement. The case was originally slated to go to a full jury trial.
Farrell was originally charged with aggravated fleeing, child abuse and drug paraphernalia possession. If convicted on all three charges, she could have faced a maximum penalty of five and half years in prison. Under the plea deal, Farrell will now do just six months of probation, 40 hours of community service and a special “restorative justice” program.
“No comment that this time, thank you,” said Farrell as News 13 questioned her while she walked out of court on Monday.
The Tennessee mother of five became an international news story in late 2013. In late October, Farrell was pulled over for speeding by a rookie New Mexico State Police officer, Tony DeTavis, on Highway 518 outside of Taos. After an argument with the officer, Farrell couldn’t decide if she wanted to pay the ticket, or agree to show up in court. As the rookie officer went back to his car to call for help, Farrell drove off.
After the officer pulled Farrell over again, things got chaotic. Farrell got in a scuffle with the officer who tried to arrest her. When the officer tried to pull Farrell out of the car, Farrell’s 14-year old son tried to fight off the officer, who then pulled out his taser. The officer then bashed out the windows on Farrell’s van after her family ran back into the van and locked the doors.
As the incident unfolded, now former state police officer Elias Montoya showed up and fired three shots at the van as Farrell sped off. Farrell was later arrested and charged.
Farrell accepted the plea deal Monday, pleaded guilty to aggravated fleeing and child abuse charges. Farrell’s guilty plea came pursuant to “North Carolina v. Alford,” a Supreme Court case that allows defendants to accept punishment for a crime without officially admitting guilt, but recognizing that there is significant evidence to prosecute the suspect.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession charge against Farrell.
While Farrell was originally ready to take this case to trial, her attorney says the deal was about resolving the case easily, in the best interests of both sides.
“I think that if you take a look at this particular agreement and in particular Donald Gallegos’ position on it, I think that goes a long ways towards somebody saying you know what, stop the polarization and let’s get into the business of what’s best for the community,” said Alan Maestas, attorney for Oriana Farrell.
Gallegos, the sitting district attorney for the Taos district, did not return News 13’s phone call requesting on Monday.
Maestas says that Farrell is “relieved” to have the case behind her.
“The best we can do is look at it as objectively as we can and try to get it as close to being fair to everybody concerned as possible, and we’re humans, we’re not going to get it right,” Farrell’s Attorney, Alan Maestas said.
Once Farrell finishes community service in New Mexico, she’ll be allowed to return to Tennessee, where she is from, to finish her probation. In the next few weeks, Farrell is expected to complete a “restorative justice” program, which will put her in the same room as the officers who tried to arrest her, along with other folks impacted by the case.
“I find the restorative justice circle process to be very healing when its taken seriously when you enter it with an open mind and an open heart, and accept and listen to statements of others who may have been harmed, and that you do whatever you might be able to do to try to heal that harm to the public,” said Judge Jeff McElroy about the “restorative justice” program.
While Farrell pleaded guilty to two felony charges, if she finishes the probation and community service without any problems, Farrell will be able to have the charges dismissed from her record, per her “Alford Plea.”
Monday, Judge Jeff McElroy weighed in on Farrell’s case.
“I want to say that I would probably have liked to see a longer period of probation, but I will note publicly that you have been on conditions of release for quite a few months, now gone on to several years, without any violations such as violating the law,” said Judge McElroy.
The charges against Farrell’s son, who rushed the officer, have been dropped.
The officer who fired at Farrell, Elias Montoya, lost his job with state police, but is now working as a deputy with the Taos Sheriff Department.
Farrell also has a civil suit against New Mexico State Police.