Navajo Man from To’hajiilee Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him with Assaulting a Federally Commissioned Tribal Officer
Defendant Prosecuted Under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – Bruce Piaso, 34, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from To’hajiilee, N.M., was arraigned today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., on an indictment charging him with assaulting a federal officer. Piaso entered a not guilty plea to the indictment and was ordered detained pending trial which has yet to be scheduled.
Piaso was arrested on June 3, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with assaulting a federal officer. According to the complaint, Piaso allegedly attacked an officer of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety on May 28, 2016, on the Navajo Indian Reservation by punching and kicking the officer while attempting to avoid arrest. Piaso allegedly jumped on the officer and attempted to take control of the officer’s weapon. At the time of the alleged assault, the tribal officer was commissioned as a Special Law Enforcement Officer by the BIA’s Office of Justice Services. Piaso was taken into tribal custody on May 28, 2016, and remained in tribal custody until his arrest on the federal charge.
Piaso was indicted on June 30, 2016, and charged with assault on a federal officer resulting in bodily injury, and assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon. The indictment alleged that Piaso committed the crimes on May 28, 2016, in Cibola County, N.M.
If convicted of the crimes charged in the indictment, Piaso faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Charges in complaints and indictments are merely accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and the Crownpoint office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Marshall is prosecuting the case under a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible. Because New Mexico’s violent crime rate, on a per capita basis, is one of the highest in the nation, New Mexico’s law enforcement community is collaborating to target repeat offenders from counties with the highest violent crime rates, including Cibola County, under this initiative.