AZTEC — Minutes before jury selection began, a Farmington man reconsidered going forward with the trial that could result in nearly a half-century in prison.

Instead, Benjamin Washington opted to accept the plea that carries a mandatory prison term of 18 years.

Washington pleaded guilty Monday in district court in Aztec to first-degree felony kidnapping for his role in the brutal brass-knuckle beating of a Farmington man in August.

He is one of six individuals charged with beating Steven Pete on the south side of a rock quarry near Ouray Street in Farmington.

Jonathan "Spooky" Gallegos, Katrina Archuleta, Amber Morrison, Timothy "Timbo" Johnson and Manuel Lujan also were charged.

All six were charged with first-degree felony kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and armed robbery, both second-degree felonies; aggravated battery and tampering with evidence, both third-degree felonies; conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit battery and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence, all fourth-degree felonies.

All the charges carry up to 46 and a half years in prison, including a mandatory 18 years if convicted of the first-degree felony kidnapping.

Deputies believe Pete, on Aug. 15, was lured to the rock quarry after two women, one of whom he was texting, offered Pete a ride to his sister's house in Ojo Amarillo on Navajo Route 36, according to court records.


Instead of taking Pete to his sister's home, they drove to the rock quarry and "as soon as they pulled up, three [men] hiding in the weeds jumped out and started beating him up," San Juan County Sheriff's Lt. Dwayne Faverino said previously.

The men took Pete's wallet, which contained about $70, and his cell phone.

Pete told deputies he wasn't able to get a good look at the subjects because "he was getting punched in the face," Faverino said.

He suffered cuts on his head, a ruptured ear drum, broken ribs and broken bones in his eye socket.

He also complained of abdomen and lower back pain from being punched and kicked.

Archuleta told deputies "that she knew they were going to pick him up and see if he had any money and if he didn't, they were going to beat him up," according to court records. "[Archuleta] went on to say that Amber had already planned to beat Steven up and jack him for everything he had."

A witness at the scene told deputies he saw men run out of the bushes and fight with another man who was being held down in a vehicle, according to court records.

Pete initially withheld information from deputies that he had exchanged text messages with Morrison. He later said he texted the girl because Lujan, on Aug. 14, suggested "his daughter needed someone like him" and he should text her.

He withheld the information because "he was on probation and he could not believe he put himself into that situation," according to court records.

Johnson, who is expected to be arraigned in April before Chief District Judge John Dean, told deputies he believed Pete was harassing Morrison, his girlfriend, according to court records.

Gallegos pleaded guilty March 18 to second-degree felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping, third-degree felony conspiracy to commit armed robbery and third-degree felony aggravated battery.

He faces up to 15 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced April 1.

U.S. Marshals last week arrested Lujan, who had eluded police since the August incident. He was found working on a pipeline in Utah when he was arrested, Sheriff's Detective Kyle Lincoln said.

Lujan is expected to be extradited to San Juan County in the next 10 days, Lincoln said.

Trials are scheduled in April for both Morrison and Archuleta.

Johnson is expected to be arraigned before Chief District Judge John Dean.

Elizabeth Piazza: