George Smith, an ex-cop and husband of a top local prosecutor, has pleaded guilty to an armed robbery charge and a count of attempted armed robbery for hold-ups at two Santa Fe-area pharmacies last year.
Smith, 44, last week received a suspended 12-year sentence, meaning no prison time unless he re-offends, after entering pleas before state District Judge Sylvia Lamar on Friday.
But other charges against Smith — including several related to a July incident in which he allegedly attacked his wife with a fireplace poker, threatened to kill her with a gun and engaged in an hours-long standoff with a police SWAT team — have been dropped.
Under terms of his plea deal, Smith is required to surrender to authorities in South Carolina by Nov. 26. He faces another armed robbery charge and other counts related to a pharmacy hold-up in that state.
The robberies by Smith, formerly a longtime deputy in South Carolina who worked briefly for the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office and the Española Police Department in New Mexico, apparently were driven by an addiction to prescription painkillers, which he demanded at gunpoint in the Santa Fe cases.
Smith’s New Mexico charges were prosecuted by District Attorney Donald Gallegos of Taos. Santa Fe District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco had a conflict because Smith’s wife — Deputy District Attorney Dorie Biagianti-Smith — is on her staff.
Gallegos said Tuesday he didn’t oppose a suspended sentence for Smith for his robbery charges because of the similar case he faces in South Carolina. “They have tougher laws than we do for gun-involved crimes,” he said.
Gallegos said he was prepared to go to trial on Smith’s local charges but that he believes “we get the same or a better result” in South Carolina.
He said the charges from the July domestic violence incident were dismissed, for now, because “the victim” — Biagianti-Smith — “indicated she was not going to be cooperative.”
He said those charges — which include aggravated battery on a household member and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — can be refiled if Smith fails to report to South Carolina authorities or violates terms of probation or parole or his conditions of release.
Wife reports Smith
In December, Biagianti-Smith reported her husband as the gunman who sought narcotic painkillers at Wiley Chemists pharmacy on Hospital Drive and at Medicap Pharmacy in Eldorado’s Agora Shopping Center.
Biagianti-Smith turned him in after she realized Smith was the robber shown in pharmacy surveillance video that was broadcast in television news reports. He was tracked down a few days later at an Albuquerque hotel, suffering from an overdose.
In the July incident, which took place while Smith was out of jail on bond pending disposition of the robbery charges, he attacked his wife with the poker and a knife at their Calle de Sebastian home and took her cellphone to keep her from calling for help.
He also allegedly pointed a .357 magnum at her head and also fired a shot outdoors, telling her it was “a warning shot.”
It wasn’t until the following morning when Smith went to check in for required electronic monitoring near the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office that Biagianti-Smith was able to get away and ask deputies for help.
Smith drove away while his wife was still inside the sheriff’s office south of town and went back to their house. He barricaded himself inside for four hours until a SWAT team fired gas canisters inside the home, forcing him to come out.
Jail records show Smith was in jail following the July arrest until Sept. 9. But he was arrested again on Oct. 7 on a new charge of false imprisonment. Gallegos said that charge was based on his actions against his wife in July and was filed as way to get Smith back behind bars because of concerns he might violate the conditions of his release again.
The Santa Fe county jail records show he was released Oct. 23, then booked again as a fugitive from South Carolina on Oct. 29 and released again on the same day.