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Court orders gallery owner charged in Santa Fe obelisk incident to get lawyer

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Jul. 19—State District Judge Sylvia LaMar on Monday ordered downtown gallery owner Stephen Fox to reapply to the Public Defender’s Office in Santa Fe for a lawyer to defend him against criminal charges associated with his alleged involvement in the destruction of the Plaza obelisk.

Fox, 73, faces two fourth-degree felony charges of criminal damage to property and conspiracy to commit criminal damage to property. He also is charged with unlawful assembly, a petty misdemeanor, in connection with accusations that he helped activists use a rope and chain to pull down the 152-year-old Soldiers Monument on Oct. 12, Indigenous Peoples Day, following three days of protest on the Plaza.

He is the only one of at least nine people charged in connection with the incident who has not already agreed to participate in a preprosecution diversion program based on restorative justice principals. The agreement will include some form of community service to settle the charges.

Fox said Monday he wants to participate in the diversion program. But Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett said it’s been difficult to incorporate him into the deal because he is not represented by an attorney and has not been willing to agree to be bound by the same conditions as the other defendants.

“The issue is one of communication,” Padgett said Monday during the second hearing on her motion seeking to have the court appoint counsel for Fox.

Fox did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s not clear if the state Law Offices of the Public Defender will agree to represent Fox.

“Until April 1, 2018, LOPD represented some non-indigent people who were required to reimburse the department, Chief Public Defender Ben Baur said in an email sent by a spokeswoman. “We ended that practice to focus our limited resources, and we no longer accept non-indigent clients. Very rarely we will make an exception based upon special circumstances or an order of the court.”

District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said Monday it was her understanding the judge ordered Fox to apply for a public defender but did not directly order the Public Defender’s Office to represent him.

The obelisk was long decried by activists as a symbol of racism due to a plaque at its base referring to “savage Indians.”

Fox does not deny pulling on the rope that ultimately destroyed the obelisk, and he has repeatedly said he believes Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber wanted the obelisk pulled down due to previous statements surrounding the controversial monument.

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