TAOS, N.M. (AP) — A woman accused of child abuse and fleeing from police after a chaotic 2013 traffic stop in which a New Mexico officer shot at her minivan full of children was sentenced Monday to six months of probation.
A judge in the tourist town of Taos also ordered Oriana Farrell, 41, of Memphis, Tennessee, to serve 40 hours of community service and participate in a special mediation program.
Her lawyer and prosecutors reached a plea agreement last week in which a misdemeanor drug charge was dropped. Had she gone to trial, as was scheduled to happen Monday, she could have faced time in state prison and $16,000 in fines.
Farrell entered an Alford plea to the child abuse and fleeing charges, acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her. If she fails to meet the conditions of her release and probation, state Judge Jeff McElroy warned her that she could face a three-year prison sentence.
Farrell declined to answer reporters’ questions when she left the courtroom.
Her attorney, Alan Maestas, said he was relieved with the outcome of the case.
“This plea agreement sends a message to end the polarization” and do what’s best for the community, he said.
Dashboard video of the shooting gained national attention. It showed New Mexico State Police Officer Elias Montoya firing at the minivan as Farrell drove away from a traffic stop that included another officer bashing her van’s window with his nightstick.
Farrell was traveling through New Mexico and had been stopped by state police for speeding. After arguing with an officer, she fled twice, with the chase reaching speeds of more than 100 mph through school zones and residential areas.
Prosecutor Emilio Chavez said Farrell ignored 43 requests by police to get out of her vehicle before finally complying. When an officer attempted to place her under arrest, she resisted and ran back to the vehicle and her son got out and a physical altercation ensued between him and an officer.
Once back in the van, the family fled. Montoya had fired three shots at the minivan, which was carrying Ferrell’s five children. No one was injured.
Montoya, who said he was aiming at a tire, was fired in December 2013 and later offered his job back with New Mexico State Police after he appealed to a public safety advisory council.
Still, Montoya chose to resign, saying he thought the agency no longer supported him. He was hired earlier this year as a Taos County deputy.
The dash-cam footage came at a time when police in Albuquerque — the state’s largest city — were under scrutiny for numerous police shootings.
Farrell has said she was trying to protect her family when she sped away. The original indictment also charged her with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia for a pair of marijuana pipes and rolling papers that authorities say were in the van.
Her plea deal ends a case that has spent months in New Mexico courts.
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