Little Water man sentenced to prison in sledgehammer assault

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Little Water resident Michael Benally was sentenced Thursday to 41 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release in the September attack of a man in Crownpoint with a sledgehammer, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Benally, 31, and co-defendants Gabriel Largo, 28, and Joshua Largo, 20, were charged Oct. 7, 2014, in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico with several felony counts of assault in the attack of an unidentified man on Sept. 5, 2014, the release states.

A witness told Navajo police investigators that the defendants got into an altercation with the man in the parking lot of the Crownpoint Trading Post in Crownpoint on the evening of Sept. 5, according to the criminal complaint.

Gabriel Largo threw a rock at the man, and it struck his head, causing him to fall down, the complaint states.

The witness told investigators the Largo brothers then surrounded the man and began punching and kicking him.

Meanwhile, Benally armed himself with a sledgehammer, according to the complaint, and beat the man's legs and body with it. The man's shin bone was shattered in the attack, and he suffered a cut behind his right ear, the complaint states.

The Largo brothers pleaded guilty to assault charges on March 5, the release states. Gabriel Largo was sentenced to 37 months in prison, and Joshua Largo was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

Benally pleaded guilty March 27 to conspiracy to commit assault and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Benally's court-appointed attorney, Michael A. Keefe, claimed in a sentencing memorandum filed on June 30 that Benally suffered "extraordinary physical abuse" as a child and was raised in extreme poverty, factors that should be taken into consideration at sentencing.

Benally's attorney also claimed in the memorandum that Benally is a good father to his two sons, ages 2 and 5.

Several friends and family members of Benally also sent letters to the judge requesting leniency.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.