Prosecutors have dropped felony and misdemeanor charges against a 21-year-old San Ildefonso Pueblo woman accused of striking two Santa Fe police officers with a cardboard sign while protesting a re-enactment of Spanish conquistadors reclaiming the city from Native Americans, her attorney said Tuesday (Oct. 10).
The move came on the eve of a hearing in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court scheduled for Wednesday (Oct. 11), at which prosecutors would have had to lay out their evidence against Jennifer Marley and try to convince a judge to let the case against her proceed.
Prosecutors may still refile the charges against Marley in a higher court or seek a grand jury indictment. District Attorney Marco Serna did not respond to messages seeking comment after business hours Tuesday.
While there’s always a possibility charges will be refiled, Marley’s attorney, Dan Cron, said it is unlikely.
“In a case like this where the documentary evidence seems to be so clear that nothing occurred, it would be surprising if the state tried to pursue these charges again in the future,” he said.
“Dismissing these charges is the right thing to do,” Cron added. “It’s time for the community to heal over this incident.”
Marley has emerged as a leading critic of the Entrada, the costumed re-enactment of Spanish colonists retaking the city in 1692 after being driven out 12 years earlier during the Pueblo Revolt. She helped organize protests against the event on the Santa Fe Plaza during last month’s Fiesta de Santa Fe.
Police arrested her along with seven other people during the protests. But she was the only one facing felony charges. Cron said the misdemeanor charges against the seven other demonstrators, mostly accusations of trespassing, are still pending in Municipal Court.
Cron said he discovered late Tuesday that the charges against his client had been dismissed. While he confirmed the dismissal with the District Attorney’s Office, Cron said he had “not had the opportunity to dig down into the details.”
Cron said he assumed the charges against Marley were dismissed because videos of the Sept. 8 incident don’t support the charges.
“I know that folks from your paper have looked into it ... and from what everybody has seen and also in my independent review of the videos,” he said, “the charges just aren’t supported.”
Police arrested Marley after the protest turned into a roving demonstration through streets near the Santa Fe Plaza. Several dozen protesters left what police had designated as a “free speech zone” at the northeast corner of the Plaza and proceeded up Washington Avenue, turned onto Marcy Street and marched toward City Hall. The crowd then tried to march down Lincoln Avenue toward the Plaza, but met a line of police officers.
Videos recorded by police and bystanders show Marley marching back and forth in front of the line of officers waving signs in both hands and chanting.
Police say she struck two officers with her signs.
But the videos are inconclusive. Recordings show Marley flick her wrist while holding a sign, but the videos do not show her striking or touching anyone. A moment later, police grab Marley and force her to the ground before leading her away to a van for booking.
Officers initially booked her on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing.
Police never claimed anyone was injured during the protests, and city officials described the event as peaceful.
Not long after Marley’s arrest, however, police filed additional charges, including the two felony counts of battery on a police officer.
Cron said Marley expressed relief when he called to inform her that the charges had been dropped. Later Tuesday, Marley said, “My joy belongs to the ones who came before me and the ones who will come after me. Victory to me is seeing newly empowered Pueblo people.”
Cron said the city’s response to the protest, which included 80 officers on the ground and nearly 100 more from outside law enforcement agencies on standby, was “overblown.”
The city’s efforts to corral protesters into a “free speech zone” in Santa Fe’s historic public square and ban certain items from the event also spurred criticism and admonishment from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s a situation where I think emotions were running high all around,” Cron said, “and now with some time and distance and cool reflection, the right thing has happened.”
The city of Santa Fe announced on Monday, which it had declared as Indigenous Peoples Day, plans for talks with the All Indian Pueblo Council of Governors and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in an effort to resolve tensions surrounding the Entrada.
This story was first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sister publication of The Taos News.