AZTEC — A man charged with conspiracy to commit murder pleaded "no contest" Monday to a much lesser charge during his district court arraignment.
The step-down in the severity of the charges was needed because police stopped Dedios before he had the chance to commit a more serious crime, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said.
Justin Dedios, 28, also was facing four felonies in connection to three unrelated arrests since March. If convicted on all charges, he would face more than 15 years in prison.
He will now be sentenced to a term of no more than three years in prison for two fourth-degree felony convictions when he is sentenced next month.
Dedios has been incarcerated since his arrest by Farmington SWAT on May 8 at the Anasazi Inn for suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, which is a second-degree felony punishable by up to nine years in prison.
Farmington police said Dedios spent the day of his arrest trying to get a gun from a Farmington resident so he could shoot another Farmington man. But the person who Dedios was trying to get a gun from was also communicating with Farmington police, so the two people never came to a clear agreement to kill their target, O'Brien said.
Farmington police acted quickly when they learned of the plot and arrested Dedios while he was waiting in a hotel for someone to bring him a gun.
"It didn't get to (conspiracy to commit murder) because of the actions of law enforcement," O'Brien said. "The reason it was pled to (a fourth-degree felony) is because that's as far as it got."
After Dedios' arrest, Farmington police said officers foiled a gang-related murder plot that may have been connected to the Animas Valley Mall shooting in April.
O'Brien said Dedios was trying to get a gun because of a dispute he had with another man over money or drugs. He said there was no evidence he had any connection to the mall shooting.
The state says there is evidence Dedios plotted to have other people watch for police while he fired shots at a man's home. But there was no evidence his lookouts were part of a murder conspiracy plot, O'Brien said.
Dedios pleaded to a fourth-degree felony for conspiracy to shoot at or from a motor vehicle, punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
He pleaded "no contest," which means a defendant doesn't admit guilt but agrees not to fight the charges. It stands as a conviction.
Eric Morrow, Dedios' attorney, said his client accepted the plea agreement because he was facing the possibility of three felony trials that each could have resulted in a three-year prison sentence or longer.
"When the state points its finger at you, it's like a gun and it's scary," Morrow said. "With the state having three shots at him, the plea was in his best interest."
Dedios also was convicted Monday of a fourth-degree felony for child abuse. It was a less serious crime than third-degree felony child abuse, which he was charged with in March when he allegedly punched his sister who was holding her young child.
Dedios was also charged with two counts of aggravated battery on April 1. Those charges were dismissed as a condition of his plea agreement. And prosecutors agreed not to use Dedios' prior felony convictions to enhance his sentence, according to court documents.
Farmington police Cpl. David Karst, the supervisor of Farmington police's gang unit, which investigated the case, said the gang unit's investigation reached a desired outcome, albeit not a lengthy prison sentence.
"We're not only here to solve crimes and put people away," Karst said. "If we can stop it from happening and save a life that's more important."
District Judge William Birdsall will sentence Dedios on July 8.
Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.