Farmington man pleads guilty in stabbing, jailhouse riot

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A 27-year-old Farmington man accused of stabbing two women in November and attacking San Juan County jail guards during a riot in December entered a plea agreement Monday with prosecutors.

In the agreement, Aaron Thomas pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated battery as a third-degree felony in connection to the stabbing. He further entered an Alford plea, similar to a no contest plea, to five counts of aggravated battery upon a peace officer for his role in the Dec. 28 riot at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.

As part of the plea agreement, Thomas is guaranteed a minimum 8-year prison sentence and could potentially face up to 22 years in prison.

Thomas was initially arrested Nov. 25 on accusations he stabbed Sharell Smith, 24, and Summer Poyer, 29, a day earlier at Smith's residence in Fruitland after a heated argument, according to court records.

Both women were treated at the San Juan Regional Medical Center, records state.

Thomas was then implicated along with three other men in a jailhouse riot at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, according to a police report. Thomas allegedly attacked a guard attempting to break up a fight between two other inmates early on Dec. 28, records state.

More guards and inmates joined the brawl, which resulted in deputies from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office and Farmington police being dispatched to the jail. The inmates were eventually removed individually from the jail pod and placed in segregated units,

As previously reported, Sheriff's deputies learned during an investigation that inmates were drinking jailhouse hootch, or liquor, and snorting prescription medication before the brawl.

The jail implemented new policies and procedures as a result of the riot.

Farmington attorney Cosme Ripol and Las Cruces attorney Peter Giovannini jointly represented Thomas in the criminal cases.

"I am actually happy with the plea," Giovannini said, adding later. "I think it's the best resolution."

Giovannini, who represented Thomas in the jailhouse brawl case, said Thomas would face significant jail time if he was found guilty at trial.

"I have reviewed the evidence in the riot case," Giovannini said. "That evidence seemed to be very compelling."

Ripol said Thomas was under the influence of intoxicants both during the jailhouse brawl and when the stabbing occurred.

Giovannini said Thomas will be requesting the minimum of 8 years in prison during his sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said the victims in the stabbing case may testify at Thomas' sentencing hearing.

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.