Suspects accused of felony count of unauthorized graffiti

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FARMINGTON — Four people have been arrested and accused of writing graffiti on a sign outside the Farmington Indian Center.

Tiara Blackie, Winston Sandoval, Donovan Levi and Shawn Tsosie were arrested Monday afternoon and charged with unauthorized graffiti (more than $1,000), a fourth-degree felony, in Farmington Magistrate Court on Tuesday, according to court records.

Officers for the Farmington Police Department were dispatched around 12:15 p.m. to the Farmington Indian Center at 100 W. Elm St. after receiving reports of about eight people on the west side of the property marking up a metal sign, according to the probable cause statement.

Employees of the Indian center told police they observed several people using a marker to draw on the back of a 6-foot-by-3-foot metal sign.

One of the employees took a photo of one of the suspects, who later was identified as Tsosie, according to court documents.

The suspects had no legal representation as this afternoon, according to court records.

Cory Styron, director of the city of Farmington Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Department, said the department was in the process of determining if it would need to replace the sign. The cost to replace the metal sign is about $1,100.

Styron said the department usually sees very little graffiti in the community, and what made the case stand out is that the suspects allegedly committed the act during the day as the staff took photos and watched them.

Some of the graffiti included someone writing their name and a sketch of someone's head, according to Styron.

The cost of replacing the sign is what elevated the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien. He said the cost to return the property to its original condition is what determines if the unauthorized graffiti charge is filed as a felony or misdemeanor.

Should the cost to repair the sign, including supplies and labor, cost less than $1,000, O'Brien said a defense attorney could argue the alleged crime is a misdemeanor.

The four suspects have their preliminary hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to court records.

Blackie, Levi and Tsosie were released on their own recognizance on Tuesday.

Sandoval remained incarcerated at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center this afternoon on a no-bond hold. He had two outstanding warrants when he was arrested.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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