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SNM prison gang member enters guilty plea

The former leader of the notorious Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiring to seriously injure another gang member in a plea deal in which he implicated the current gang boss for sanctioning the hit.

Gerald "Stix" Archuleta

ARCHULETA: Arrested in large operation

Three-time convicted killer Gerald “Stix” Archuleta, 49, will face up to three years in federal prison under the plea agreement in which he claimed Anthony “Pup” Baca approved the assault that nearly killed then-inmate Julian Romero in 2015.

Archuleta is the first to plead guilty in a massive federal case in which more than 40 defendants have been charged with participating in a violent racketeering enterprise. Part of the federal indictment alleges Baca and three other SNM members also conspired to murder the chief of the New Mexico Corrections Department and another top prison official last year.

Archuleta made headlines in 2009 after allegedly offering $20,000 to anyone who would kill then-Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White.

White had used Archuleta as a “poster boy” to push for a tougher three-strikes law in New Mexico. Archuleta was not charged in that alleged threat.

Archuleta had resettled in Tennessee, where he served a one-year parole in 2011 on his New Mexico conviction. His arrest there on the SNM-related federal charges last December came after the FBI led a lengthy multiagency investigation of the SNM gang’s activities inside and outside prison walls. The FBI has dubbed the law enforcement crackdown Operation Atonement.

Many of the charges reflect a historical look at the gang’s criminal activities, which included murder, kidnapping, attempted murder and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute narcotics.

Archuleta’s attorney, George Harrison of Las Cruces, didn’t return a Journal call for comment on Friday.

Archuleta stated in his plea agreement that he joined SNM in 1990 at the Penitentiary of New Mexico, where the gang organized a decade earlier.

Archuleta acknowledged in the agreement that he and victim Romero both engaged in racketeering activities for the SNM in 2003.

“J.R. and I had a falling out in 2003 and as a result, I put a ‘green light’ on J.R. Based upon my status in the SNM, this ‘green-light’ was well known to members of SNM.”

The “green light” spurred other members of the gang to shoot Romero in 2003, but he survived, the plea agreement says.

The green light was still in effect in 2015, when “another member or associate of SNM acted on the ‘hit,'” the agreement says. The attack on Romero at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in July 2015 was approved by leaders of the SNM gang, including Baca, who was “aware of the outstanding ‘green light’ and sanctioned it,” Archuleta’s plea agreement says.

Two other defendants are charged in the beating. Romero, 56, was attacked within five hours of gang members being let out of a 16-month prison lockdown instituted after the murder of another SNM member. He has since been released from prison.