Hazing ringleader admits crimes

-A A +A
By David Giuliani

SANTA FE -- Michael Gallegos, the ringleader behind the sexual assaults on his fellow Robertson High School football players nearly two years ago, admitted to the crimes Monday.

In Santa Fe’s District Court, Gallegos pleaded guilty to counts of criminal sexual penetration, attempted criminal sexual penetration and conspiracy.

Gallegos, the son of former City Councilman Michael Gallegos, apologized to his family and his former teammates. He said he could imagine how hard it has been for the victims.

“I hope we can begin to heal. I’m sorry,” Gallegos said. “I do take full responsibility for my actions.”

Prosecutor Henry Valdez summarized the facts of the case, in which Gallegos led five of his fellow football players in sodomizing underclassmen with broomsticks.

Asked if the facts were true, an emotionless Gallegos said yes.

Gallegos, whose family moved out of Las Vegas soon after he was charged, will be sentenced after the juvenile probation office prepares the judge a pre-sentence report. He could be sent to a youth prison until he’s 21.

It’s not clear yet whether he’ll have to register as a sex offender.

Gallegos pleaded guilty in exchange for the state’s dropping of some of his charges. He had been set to go on trial Tuesday.

Some of the victims’ parents signed a letter that stated the plea agreement wasn’t in the best interests of the state. They said the deal didn’t include all of the victims whom Gallegos had been charged with attacking.

They said in the letter that they understood that the number of charges was “immaterial” legally but that it was important to their sons that they be included in the agreement.  

“Being sentenced as a juvenile, none of these charges will follow him (Gallegos) into adulthood,” the parents said in the letter. “Although we are all relieved that this painful ordeal may finally be over, we must continue to fight for our sons until they have been fully vindicated.”

Valdez, however, said the plea agreement was in society’s best interests. He said the count of conspiracy included the four of the nine victims in which Gallegos didn’t specifically plead guilty to attacking.

Also, the prosecutor said the court has wide latitude in sentencing.

District Judge Mark Macaron said he believed that the agreement served the state’s interests.

More than 50 people attended the hearing, many of whom were family and friends of the victims. The defendant’s side of the courtroom included Gallegos’ family and supporters, including former City Councilman Louie Trujillo.

After the hearing, the father of one of the victims said he and the other parents will fight for their sons until the sentencing hearing.

“I hope the boys can heal,” he said.

Robert Rothstein, the attorney for the parents, said they won’t file a lawsuit involving the attacks until after Gallegos’ sentencing.

A couple of weeks ago, Lucas Martinez became the fifth teenager to plead guilty to his role in the attacks. With the five others prepared to testify against Gallegos, it became more likely that he would strike a plea deal.

They sodomized their teammates during an August 2008 football camp at the Western Life camp in the Gallinas Canyon. The football coaching staff resigned a couple of weeks after the assaults.

Gallegos and the others were expelled from Robertson High School.