BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A 25-year old Los Alamos woman pleaded guilty to one charge of simple battery Thursday in Los Alamos Municipal Court in connection with an Aug. 30 incident during a Black Lives Matter protest at Ashley Pond where she struck a 65-year old woman in the face and kicked a man in the groin.
Los Alamos Police Department Sgt. Ben Irving at first proposed a plea agreement under which one of two battery charges faced by Lauren Palermo would be dismissed and she would plead no contest to the other. She would have been required to pay $60 in court fees and perform 25 hours of community service. The second battery charge would be deferred and dismissed after 90 days.
Judge Elizabeth Allen gave the two victims a chance to make a statement. The male victim noted that Palermo had “sucker-punched” his mother, kicked him in the groin and scratched him, and kicked his father in the groin. He said he didn’t believe the terms of the plea agreement were justice for a 25-year old defendant that “tried to knock out a 65-year old woman”.
The female victim at first thought Palermo should have been charged with assault but Judge Allen explained that assault is an attempt or threat to commit a battery and that battery is the unlawful or intentional touching of another. The female victim felt jail time would be fair. She indicated that she is not a racist as claimed by Palermo and that she would never wear a facemask that said “(expletive) China” as claimed in the police incident report by Palermo.
Palermo also had the opportunity to make a statement to the Court.
“I did throw the first punch but she did have something written in Sharpie about China on her mask which seems racist to me and she did call me a spoiled little white girl. They all called me names. I forget who exactly called me what,” she said. “It was just a heated situation and I reacted in the moment and I regret it”
Judge Allen asked Palermo if it matters what they called her and if she ever thinks it’s okay to use violence. Palermo responded that she doesn’t think it’s okay to use violence and that she just overreacted.
Sgt. Irving told the Court that the situation had been pretty heated and that police had a couple of witnesses on both sides saying that both sides were “antagonizing each other”.
“With the situation that we were seeing and the multiple statements we got from both sides of the protest that was going on, the decision was made at that point that we were dealing with a simple battery situation. Both sides were engaging in a heated discussion which led to one person – per their own statement – letting their lesser judgment get the better of them. That’s why I offered the plea agreement,” Irving said.
Judge Allen told Palermo she was concerned that she hit someone.
“That’s not a normal way to react and I understand that tempers are high, that everyone’s divided, that it feels like everyone is on two completely opposite ends of the spectrum at this point. But I’m incredibly concerned that you thought that hitting someone was the way to resolve it,” she said.
Palermo responded that she wasn’t thinking when she did it.
“I just did it. I wish I’d thought better and used better judgment but I didn’t,” she said.
Judge Allen said she was struggling with the proposed plea deal.
“I usually do not go against plea deals. I usually follow through with what the officer recommends because I don’t know everything. After hearing (the female victim’s) statements and (the male victim’s) statement, I do think there’s something that needs to happen in addition to what was stated here, especially because it sounds like medical treatment was not sought for the victims,” she said. “Based on your no contest plea, I am going to agree to the 90 day deferral.
Judge Allen said that in order to get the second battery charge dismissed she needed Palermo to complete a 12-hour anger management class online.
“I’m requiring 50 hours of community service, not 25. The reason why I’m doubling that is because I don’t want you to ever think that it’s okay to hit someone, ever. I know you have a clean record, that you’ve never been in trouble before, but that is not the way to go – that 50 hours of community service would be akin to serving jail time but I’m not ordering jail time in this case right now,” she said. “If you do not complete the 50 hours of community service, if you do not do the 12 hour anger management class, do plan on coming back and I would order jail. The ball’s in your court to see what you can accomplish with this. I hope that you can find it to apologize to (the victims).