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Court Cases | Shiprock man facing weapon, drug charges


A Shiprock man is facing weapon and drug charges in federal court in Albuquerque after Navajo Police found the illegal items in his vehicle after a pursuit through Shiprock.

Jason E. Begay, 40, has been charged with carrying a firearm in furtherance of drug possession and possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

According to court records, on Nov. 14, 2021, Navajo Police received a report of a man being seen slumped over the wheel of his vehicle just north of Morgan Lake in San Juan County, New Mexico.

When they arrived on the scene, police found Begay sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. On the front passenger seat in plain sight, they also took note of a black handgun.

When police made contact and expressed an interest to talk with him, Begay fled the scene.

The pursuit travels through the south side of Shiprock and then entered a housing subdivision where Begay’s vehicle got stuck in the mud. He then got out of his vehicle and began running away. He was apprehended about 100 yards from his vehicle.

Police were able to identify Begay because of previous encounters with law enforcement officers and previous arrests on firearm and drug charges.

They found the handgun in the vehicle as well as a tool bag open in the front seat. The bag contained several packets of a white crystal substance which later tested positive for meth. In all, police found eight baggies which totaled almost 7 pounds of meth.

In the cargo hood of the vehicle, police found a shotgun and ammunition for the handgun. A firearms suppressor and scope were also found in the vehicle.

A check of state criminal records revealed that Begay had been convicted in 1999 of felony aggravated assault.

He was placed under arrest on Jan. 5 and is now being held in custody by the U.S. Marshal’s office in Albuquerque.

‘Heat of passion’ killing nets 14-year sentence

Leroy Johnson Benally, a resident of Chinle, was sentenced last week to 14 years and three quarters in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
According to court records, he was arrested in November 2020 in connection with the killing of a man identified only as A.G.

In his plea agreement, Benally admitted shooting the victim with a rifle twice but he said he did it in the heat of passion after being provoked.

“The defendant killed the victim recklessly without regard for human life,” according to the plea agreement.

A sentencing memo said Benally faced life in prison but prosecutors agreed to seek a shorter sentence given his age, 22 at the time of the killing, and the fact that he viewed himself as a victim.

The person he killed was his stepfather and Benally told police that his stepfather had been abusing his mother for several months. On the morning of the killing, Benally said he saw the two of them arguing and afterwards saw his mother holding her arm and crying.

He decided to confront his stepfather who at the time was sharpening a knife and holding it in a position, Benally said, that was threatening.

The memo also pointed out that he began drinking and taking drugs when he was 11 years old and as a result formed relationships that negatively impacted on his life. His drug use quickly turned to an addiction to methamphetamine.

Benally’s attorneys argued that because of these factors his client should receive a sentence of 120 months but prosecutors asked for the longer sentence.

Once he is released from prison, he will be under supervised release for three years.

Man charged for strangulation

Federal charges have been filed in Prescott against Daryl Smallcanyon, no age listed, a resident of Arizona, who was charged with assault of an intimate partner by strangulation.

The indictment accuses him of assaulting a female who was referred to as T.N. in court records.

The assault occurred on the Navajo Reservation on June 20, 2021. He was arrested on Dec. 20 and has been held in the custody of the U. S. Marshall’s Office in Prescott since his arrest.

Leupp man pleads guilty to sexual abuse

Rom Lee Bennett, of Leupp, Arizona, last week pleaded guilty in federal court in Prescott to sexual abuse of a minor.

Bennett was arrested in November 2020 and was charged with having sexual contact with a female under the age of 16 between November 2017 and November 2018.

The plea agreement said he faced a possible sentence of 15 years. The prosecution chose not to make a recommendation on sentencing, leaving it up to the court.

He has been held in custody since his arrest.

About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan wrote about Navajo Nation government and its people since 1971. He joined Navajo Times in 1976, and retired from full-time reporting in 2018 to move to Torrance, Calif., to be near his kids. He continued to write for the Times until his passing in August 2022.


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