Stabbing victim requests maximum sentence

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AZTEC — Leonard Russell was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison, with one year suspended, for the Dec. 14 stabbing of Ernest Begay Jr. outside the Farmington Indian Center.

Begay, 34, did not attend the hearing, but a victim's advocate read a letter he wrote addressing district Judge John Dean.

"I have dreams of being stabbed," Begay wrote. "I can't sleep most of the time."

Begay said in the letter he wanted Russell, 57, to serve the maximum sentence possible for attempted first-degree murder, a second-degree felony punishable by up to nine years in prison.

Russell faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison due to his prior criminal history.

"I wish he could feel the stress, anger and turmoil I feel every day," Begay wrote.

Begay was found by police shortly after midnight Dec. 15 near the corner of South Behrend Avenue and West Elm Street, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

He was bleeding profusely from a stab wound to the chest and rushed to San Juan Regional Medical Center for treatment, the affidavit states.

Russell was arrested in the area of the stabbing and confessed to the crime, telling police Begay bullied him and his friends.

Russell pleaded no contest to first-degree attempted murder on Aug. 24.

However, Begay said in his letter to the judge he never met Russell.

Both men said at the sentencing hearing they were homeless and struggled with alcoholism. Russell told the judge in a statement that other people around town said Begay was threatening people at the homeless shelter.

Russell's attorney, Mark Curnutt, interrupted Russell during his statement. He said, on Russell's behalf, that alcoholism and homelessness caused him to make a bad decision.

"Leonard Russell, in his right mind, wouldn't have committed this act," Curnutt said.

Russell requested mercy from Dean in his sentencing.

Dean noted Russell had a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1987 and said his responsibility was to protect the public.

"He asks for mercy," Dean said. "I would say that is not my job."

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.

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