Relatives of slain Navajo policemen Roy Lee Stanley and Andy Begay are divided about the life-imprisonment sentences meted out Monday afternoon to two men convicted in the slayings.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene sentenced Vinton Bedoni and Thomas Cly to two concurrent terms of life in prison each for the killings. Because they are concurrent, this part of the sentence was the same as if only one man were killed.The murders took place on the Utah section of the Navajo Reservation the night of Dec. 4-5, 1987. Stanley and Begay were shot when they tried to break up an illegal beer party, then driven to remote Copper Canyon. Their trucks were doused with gasoline and the officers burned to death.
Greene also imposed on each defendant two consecutive sentences of five years in prison for using firearms in the crimes.
Of the defendants, only Bedoni spoke at the sentencing. And all he said was, "I just like a new trial. They're wrong." By they, he meant the jurors who convicted him and Cly on Aug. 2.
Appeals seem inevitable. Defense lawyer Ed Brass, representing Cly, said to not appeal in a case with such a severe sentence would be like a doctor not trying to save a patient on an operating table.
Trial of a third defendant, Ben Atene Jr., is scheduled to start Oct. 11. He was left in a legal limbo when the jury failed to reach a verdict in his case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stewart Walz said Bedoni and Cly were sentenced under the law that Congress attempted to replace with new sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines recently were declared unconstitutional by all Utah's federal judges, and await a Supreme Court ruling.
Under the guidelines, if Greene had sentenced the defendants to life in prison, Walz said, "it means life. It means until they die."
But Greene cited the earlier statute, which allows the possibility of parole after ten years in a life sentence. The ten years each man must serve on the firearms violation must be added to that, so they will serve a minimum of 20 years.
Bill Stanley, Salt Lake City, a brother of Roy Lee Stanley, said after the sentence, "I think it was a very good, positive step for the community of Monument Valley, and also it's an indication that the judicial system works, and is fair."
Daniel Begay, Mexican Hat, a brother of Andy Begay, said, "I think it's great the way it came out . . . I think the system does really work here, off the reservation."
But another of Stanley's brothers, Daniel Stanley, said, "I think they got off too easy, and that the law should be charged a little bit on the federal system. They should put out a death penalty on that."
Cly's mother, Patricia Cly, said, "All I can say is my son is innocent, and the killer's still out there, out in the desert somewhere.
"Yeah really, my son's innocent. No matter how long it takes, we'll back him."
In the hearing, Greene dismissed in a perfunctory manner a motion for a new trial.
Robert VanSciver, Bedoni's lawyer, said cultural differences surfaced throughout the trial. Even now, he said, Bedoni uses the word "scary" to refer to "why do people say I did those things," he said.
He asked Greene to take cultural differences into account, and said rehabilitation would be possible.
Walz said the sentences should be consecutive. While "it takes my breath away" to advocate sending men to prison for the rest of their lives, be said, so does "what happened to the officers."
The brutal murders were deliberate, as was the attempt to cover up what happened, he said. He noted the officers had six children.