By Barry Heifner
GALLUP — Mayor Harry Mendoza recently delivered a series of radio and print media statements aimed at convincing residents he was not involved in a brutal June 1948 gang rape of a 16-year-old Zuni girl.
Mendoza says he did know the five other youths — ranging in age from 17 to 21 — who were convicted of the crime, but claims he was only questioned by police and jailed. Mendoza says he was never charged and was not there when the rape was committed.
“I, along with several other Hispanic males, were detained, questioned, and physically examined by the local police. I indeed spent a night in jail and then was released. I did know of and was acquainted with some of the participants in the rape case. I have no idea why Sammie Lucero’s statement mistakenly mentions me and later has my name lined out and another substituted,” Mendoza said in a prepared statement Jan. 18 given to all local media except the Independent.
The facts, however, paint a far different picture.
In all court documents leading up to the May 1949 trial, Mendoza’s name is included. Mendoza, who was 16 at the time, is named in a statement given by Sammie Lucero, 19, as one of the boys who held the girl down while Lucero raped her…
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READ THESE ACTUAL COURT RECORDS! (5.72 MB)
May take a few minutes to download.
Harry Mendoza alledgedly punched the "Gallup Independent" publisher, Bob Zollinger, in the face, after the articles above were published.
Video on site link.
Mayor, publisher get into fistfight
Updated: Wednesday, 06 Jan 2010, 10:49 PM MST
Published : Wednesday, 06 Jan 2010, 10:49 PM MST
The mayor of Gallup and the publisher of the Gallup Independent got into a fistfight on Wednesday morning outside a Gallup bank, and both say the other started it.
Gallup police are investigating the altercation between Mayor Harry Mendoza and Gallup Independent publisher Bob Zollinger, which began around 11 a.m. Wednesday outside the Pinnacle Bank in downtown Gallup.
"There were punches being thrown and kicking going on," Pinnacle Bank branch director Tommy Haws told News 13. "A couple of our employees went outside and saw that."
Police say both men claim the other started the fight. Mendoza told police that Zollinger started poking him in the chest hitting his pacemaker. Zollinger told police that Mendoza threw the first punch.
"It’s kind of a he-said he-said here," Gallup Deputy Police Chief John Allen told News 13.
Zollinger spoke with News 13 Wednesday night.
"He got me in the upper and lower lip," Zollinger said. Zollinger appeared to have a small cut to his left cheek.
Police indicate the fight centered around a series of stories recently published in the Gallup Independent linking Mendoza to the gang rape of a 16-year old girl back in 1948.
"Mr. Zollinger says he has located a victim from an alleged prior rape that he alleges the mayor is involved in," Allen told News 13.
Surveillance video from Pinnacle Bank obtained by News 13 shows the two men hitting each other. There also was a series of exchanges which led each man to chase after the other on separate occasions. The fight lasted about 5 minutes before witnesses broke it up.
Police confirmed Zollinger had injuries to his face. They said Mendoza suffered an injury to one of his hands.
After the fight was broken up, both men left the bank. Both men also called police.
Police spent the day interviewing both men and looking through the surveillance tape. They are looking for people who may have seen the initial exchange.
Mendoza did not return News 13’s calls and there was no answer when News 13 knocked on the front door of his Gallup home.
Gallup City Attorney Dave Pederson told News 13 that Mendoza informed him of the altercation. He said the mayor insisted Zollinger started the fight.
"The Mayor has indicated Mr. Zollinger forcefully poked him in the chest with his index finger," Pederson said.
Zollinger denied that claim.
"No, I didn’t touch him at all," Zollinger said.
Zollinger told News 13 that Mendoza hasn’t answered repeated requests from the Gallup Independent to respond to the rape allegations.
"He’s just a thug," Zollinger said. "That’s all he is and unfortunately he’s our mayor."
(It is alledged that Mendoza joined the Army after the rape to avoid conviction. If anyone can rape a young girl, and this was a BRUTAL GANG RAPE, AND become a Mayor, something is terribly WRONG! The .pdf files on the case as linked above may help one draw their own conclusions about Mendoza’s guilt or implication in the rape. At any rate, a full investigation is called for, Mendoza should not be a Mayor until his name is cleared?, and he should be convicted NOW if he is a rapist!)
When will there be JUSTICE for the victim? It’s been a long time…
If innocent, why is Mendoza’s name still in the court documents. He was IMPLICATED. If you or I had so much as a Misdemeanor, we would certainly not be able to be a Mayor or hold any other public office or position.
Time for a complete review of this case and settle this once and for all. If "innocent", what does MENDOZA have to fear?
In June 2009, the "Gallup Independent" reported that the rape case involving Mendoza was "still active":
Rape charge still active
Mendoza says he, family were unaware of charges
Gallup Mayor Harry Mendoza sits in a City Council meeting May 26. — © 2009 Gallup Independent / Cable Hoover
Copyright © 2009
By Bill Donovan
GALLUP — District court records of a rape that occurred 61 years ago showed that Gallup’s Mayor Harry Mendoza, along with six other Gallup men, was charged with the rape of a 16-year-old Native girl.
Mendoza was never tried for the rape and officials for the district attorney’s office said that if the case against Mendoza was never dropped, it still may be on the books.
As for Mendoza, he said Tuesday that he was “shocked” to read the court documents and learn he had been charged. A 16-year-old in 1948, Mendoza said that no one had ever told him or his family about the rape charges.
It was two days of revelations that began with the chief clerk of the district court in Gallup, Fran Palochak, announcing that her office had found the missing court records dealing with the conviction and sentencing of five Gallup men for the crime in June 1949. Mendoza was not tried because he entered the Army six months before.
The records were found, Palochak said, after City Attorney R. David Peterson had made a request for them and said they were filed under the name of Joe Delores.
It turned out that the records were indeed filed incorrectly.
The defendant’s name was Joe Delores Lucero.
The court records consisted of 42 pages. Of these 42 pages, only four dealt with statements by two of the defendants — Sammie Lucero and Ralph Garcia — giving their version of the rapes and who was involved.
In the statement by Lucero, Mendoza’s name is listed as being involved in the rape.
The records also show that beginning on Oct. 21, 1948, Mendoza’s name was listed as one of the seven men who were charged with the rape. Others were Joe and Sammie Lucero, Henry Montano, Refugio Barela, Ralph Garcia and Ernest Lopez. Lopez would later have the charges dismissed against him, and the Luceros, Montano, Barela and Garcia would be convicted and sentenced to prison.
The records show that from Oct. 21 to the day the trial started on May 30, Mendoza’s name was listed. It wasn’t until May 31 when the verdict was given that Mendoza’s name was not among the defendants.
Mendoza said it wasn’t until he saw the court documents on Tuesday that he realized that he had been charged.
He remembers spending one to three days in jail beginning on June 6, the day after the rape, but this was part of a citywide sweep conducted by police in the aftermath of the rape. According to a newspaper accounts, police were picking up any men between the ages of 15 and 25 who they found on the streets as possible suspects in the rape.
Mendoza said he remembers being on the street that night with friends but today can’t recall any of their names. He said he was not among the group that would later be convicted of raping Frances Abeyta. Court records differ from Mendoza’s account.
Police picked up the youths and men so that Abeyta would have an opportunity to identify her assailants. At that time, after being given a chance to look at everyone who was picked up, she named five men — the Luceros, Garcia, Montano and Barela. It turned out that she knew at least one of them personally. According to the Independent the next day, all five admitted their guilt.
On June 7, according to the court records, Sammie Lucero was interrogated by an attorney with the county’s district attorney’s office and during the questioning, he was asked if anyone held the girl down while he committed the rape.
“Yes, Harry Mendoza and that other guy.”
It was at this point that the person conducting the question became confused, thinking Lucero was referring to Montano since he comes back and says; “Henry Mendoza and the other guy were on either side of her?” to which Lucero says yes even though no such person as Henry Mendoza existed — it was either Harry Mendoza or Henry Montano.
Later on when asked to name the people who participated in the rape, Lucero named himself and the four others who had been arrested. He did not name Mendoza. He again referred to “the other guy.”
The statements by Sammie Lucero and Garcia both indicated that they did not know Montano very well. Garcia refers to him as Henry and says he doesn’t know the person’s last name during his questioning and in a 1996 investigation on the rapes conducted by the Independent, the similarities between Mendoza and Montano’s name would be mentioned as a reason for the mix-up.
But the question remains — how could Mendoza and his family not know that Mendoza had been charged with rape?
Mendoza said he was never arrested after that first night, never appeared at a hearing, never had anyone from the district attorney’s office come and serve him papers. He just went on with his life until Jan. 2, 1949, when he joined the Army and was sent to basic training.
One aspect of this has to do with the Independent at the time. The major newspaper in the area, the original report of the rape and the arrest of the five Gallup youths did not include the names of the five. In fact, it would not be until June 5, 1949, after the conviction that the paper would list the names for the first time and say that Mendoza was not prosecuted because he was serving in the Army.
Mendoza said he was not even aware of what the newspaper said on that date until he saw a copy of the article last week when the Independent was preparing its first article on the rape.
Mendoza apparently first came to the attention of law enforcement officials when Sammie Lucero mentioned his name, but there are no records of the preliminary hearing held in July.
At the arraignment a few days after the arrest, only the two Luceros, Garcia, Montano and Barela were named. They were all represented by John Perry who convinced at least two of them — Montano and Barela — to plead guilty. Later, he would get the court to change their plea to not guilty, saying that he only got involved in the case shortly before the arraignment and did not time to interview his clients very much before it was held.
None of the five had attorneys during the two days they were questioned by police and the district attorney’s office.
McDevitt, who was to represent the five at trial, was retained by the parents of the defendants on May 4, 1949, less than four weeks before the trial began.
Jim Bierly, the chief deputy district attorney for McKinley County, said Tuesday that a lot of things that happened 61 years ago wouldn’t happen today.
First, this was decades before the Miranda rulings were imposed which required law enforcement officials to explain to the accused that they had a right to an attorney and if they couldn’t afford one, one would be provided. Looking at the questioning of the Sammie Lucero and Garcia, he said he noticed that a lot of the questions were leading, something else that wouldn’t be allowed today.
“You also wouldn’t have one attorney representing all five defendants,” he said.
Mendoza said that when he decided to join the Army, he was not aware that charges had been filed and the Army — preparing for the Korean War — didn’t question his eligibility.
He had no problem enlisting.
He said that when he returned to Gallup a few years later, there was no mention by anyone of the rape charges, and it wasn’t until that 1996 story in the Independent, which was written during a time he was running for county commission, that the matter came up publicly.
Bierly said he checked with the Web site that is run by the New Mexico judiciary but could not find Mendoza’s name. Of course, these records only go back to 1986.
If the charges that were filed against Mendoza in 1948 were never dismissed, they still may be on the books, he said. No one at the district attorney’s office, however, had any idea if the charges were still on the books or how to find out if they were, given the length of time that has passed.
“If they are still on the books, Mendoza could come to the district attorney’s office to have them dismissed,” Bierly said.
District Attorney Karl Gillson agreed, saying that the charges would be dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired decades ago.
As for Mendoza, he said he didn’t see any need since the matter happened so long ago and his statements that he had nothing to do with the crime still have not changed.
NOTICE: "Mendoza remembers being on the street that night with friends but today can’t recall any of their names."
He can remember being on a street 61 years ago? Where were you 61 years ago!?
AND THIS ARTICLE:
Was Mendoza part of a gang rape?
Copyright © 2009
By Bill Donovan
GALLUP — It was 1948 and a crime that summer would send shock waves through Gallup and lead law enforcement officials to call it one of the worst they had ever seen.
The gang rape of a 17-year-old Native woman would end up with five Gallup youths going to prison and Gallupians wondering how something like this could happen in their peaceful city.
But 61 years later, there are still questions surrounding the crime, and these center on Mayor Harry Mendoza, one of Gallup’s most prominent politicians. Did Mendoza play a role in the rape as 1949 news reports would suggest, and if so, how was he able to avoid prosecution? Inexplicably, the official court records of the trial, which were used in a 1996 Independent story, cannot be found.
These are not new allegations. The Independent has looked into this once before and the current investigation has been hampered by the missing court records, the refusal of at least one key witness to talk and fading memories. Many questions still remain unanswered and there are some in town who feel that Mendoza may have spent the past decades playing down whatever involvement he had in the incident.
The investigations have uncovered some evidence — a 1949 story in the Independent saying Mendoza was charged with rape and references to court records that implicate him as well — but these and other records that would settle these questions are nowhere to be found.
The story that appeared on the June 5, 1948 front page of the Gallup Independent — headlined “Five Boys Held on Rape Charges” — was only six paragraphs long and lacked a lot of details, such as names of those who were being arrested for rape.
The information came from John Scanlon, the city’s assistant district attorney. The article read: “The story, as he reported it, was that the Zuni girl and her (14-year-old) sister were accosted by a group of boys on 66 Avenue Saturday evening as they attempted to enter a drug store. One of the girls broke away as the youths forced the 17-year-old girl to accompany them down the street. (The sister later told police that she threw rocks at the boys before escaping.)
“They forced the girl to go with them down South Fourth Street and attacked her on the hill. In the meantime, the sister had notified police and a search was started for the boys.
“Mrs. Howard Woods later reported hearing the girl’s screams and sent a boy to direct police to where the girl was lying on the ground. Police took her to St. Mary’s hospital and then began a roundup of the boys who were identified by the sister.”
Scanlon said that the boys admitted participating in the attack and would be tried for rape.
Among the boys who were picked up was Mendoza. Years later, he would talk about spending the night in jail along with a lot of other youths that police picked up on that night as part of a sweep through the downtown area. That, he would claim, was his sole involvement in the incident.
A year later, five Gallup youths went on trial for the crime — Joe Delores Lucero, 20; Refuglo Barela, 21; Sammy Lucero, 20; Ralph Garcia, 18; and Henry Montano, 18.
The only mention of Mendoza in the Independent during that time came within the story about their conviction. John Perry, one of the defense attorneys, said that Ernest Lopez was not charged because of lack of evidence. The next sentence in the story read: “Harry Mendoza, who was also charged with rape in the case, was not tried since he was in the Army.”
When this article was shown to Mendoza earlier this month, he said he had never seen it before. “That’s not true,” he said. “I was never charged with rape.” Without the official court records, Mendoza’s innocence cannot be confirmed.
Mendoza said he was in the Army when the trial occurred, enlisting on Jan. 2, 1949, on his 17th birthday, but the enlistment, he said recently, was because he had been missing a lot of school and was afraid that eventually he would get in trouble so he decided the best thing he could do was go into the military.
Since the court records are missing, no records have ever been found proving that he was charged with rape — either during the investigation that the Independent has undertaken for the past month or the one it did in 1996 when Mendoza was running for county commission.
The 1996 article quoted Mendoza as saying that he dropped out of school when he was 17 to join the Army.
Two days after their 1949 conviction, the Gallup five learned their fate.
Four of them — the two Luceros, Barela and Garcia — all received 12 to 20 years in the state prison. The fifth, Montano, was given a nine to 15 year sentence after the jury recommended clemency. Montano’s defense attorney presented evidence that while he was at the scene, he did not rape the victim “because of a temporary physical disability.”
His defense attorney, Howard McDevitt, said Montano “was so ashamed of his failure that he ran away and did not assist the others in the act.” He argued that that Montano could not be found guilty because he did not commit the act and was not an accessory.
The judge in the case, James B. McGhee, a Roswell judge who had been assigned the case after the local judge recused himself, basically gave them all the maximum sentence allowed, saying that the rape was “the worst I have ever come across.”
Later, during the sentencing, when one of the five asked for “another chance,” McGhee responded: “You boys have had your chance to live a decent life. You have violated the law in a terrible way and must pay society for your misdeeds.”
Back in 1996, Mendoza said that on the night of the rape, police had accused him of being a part of it but “I was never charged.” Mendoza said in 1996 that he wasn’t there when the rape occurred but had met up with friends and later he and his friends were stopped by police and questioned about the rape.
Local attorneys and judges, none of whom go back anywhere near the 1940s, said that they had all heard of reports of practices in the old days that would allow someone to enlist in order to avoid prosecution, but most of these stories centered around misdemeanor offenses and definitely not anything as serious as rape, one local attorney said.
The 1996 investigation by the Independent found court records in which Mendoza’s name came up in the deposition of one of the six defendants. The reference to Mendoza by one of the defendants — it does not mentioned which one — came when he was asked who held the girl down while he was raping her. The defendant said: “Harry Mendoza and the other guy.”
But the defendant then, in his next sentence, mixes up Mendoza’s name with another defendant and the person preparing the record — or someone later — penciled out Mendoza’s name and replaced it with one of the other defendants. Later, the defendant who mentioned Mendoza’s name was asked to list the names of every one involved with the rape and Mendoza’s name was not among the ones he listed.
In the current investigation, District Court officials in Gallup, after conducting a search that came up empty, said the files may be in Roswell since it was a judge from Roswell who handled the case. But District Court officials there said that while McGhee may have made copies of the record for his own personal reference, none of them were turned over to the Roswell District Court and the primary records should have been kept in Gallup.
In 1996, the Independent was able to track down only one of the defendants in the case. That person was not identified in the story but he said “I don’t think that (Mendoza) was there.”
In this year’s investigation, the only defendant still in the area was Montano, who came back to Gallup and worked for the county road department for many years. When he was contacted by phone by a reporter who wanted to know about Mendoza’s involvement in the rape, he said, “no comment” and hung up.
Mendoza came back to Gallup after his stint in the Army and prosecutors could have filed charges again but did not. It wasn’t until he started his political career a decade or so later, that the reports of his involvement in the rape began surfacing.
In its current investigation, the Independent received information indicating originally that the victim of the rape was not Zuni but was likely a resident of Acoma. When people in Zuni were asked if they recognized the name, no one had any information but some said that the name sounded like it was someone from Laguna or Acoma.
A woman by the same name as the victim, Francis Abeyta, was listed on the Acoma rolls but pueblo officials said she died several years ago. The pueblo records showed that she had relatives who were still alive. Her daughter, who spoke with the Independent, is 68, so her mother is ruled out as the victim since she would have been seven years old when she had her daughter. The victim’s last name, Abeyta or Abeita, however, is a common one. There is no record of the victim’s sister, Lyda.
Other parts of the investigation are also continuing with the paper still trying to locate the records or discover if someone over the years may have removed them. The paper is also contacting all participants, including friends and associates of Montano, seeking information on Mendoza’s involvement — or lack of involvement — in the rape.
— Contributing to this story were reporters, Phil Stake, Jim Tiffin and Gaye Brown de Alvarez.
(Ah, but there ARE records NOW, as found in the .pdf file court records finally "found".)Justice must prevail in this case. Mr. Mendoza needs to cooperate with a new investigation whether the statutes of limitation have run out or not. IF involved (held down the child-victim while she was mounted and raped?), should he be MAYOR of any city?
AND, certainly any Mayor who is involved in a "fist-fight" is not fit to lead anyone. There are attorney’s and Police Departments that handle "problems" such as Mendoza has… let’s HOPE! What kind of message is Mendoza sending to young males? "Might is Right"? (Or, you can get away with RAPE or charges of RAPE?)
The good People of Gallup, New Mexico, need to really think about what having a RAPE SUSPECT for a MAYOR says to the rest of the world… Or don’t they care?