A judge put Juan Mata on probation for publicly accused a Farmington, N.M., police officer of harassment, the Farmington DailY Times says. Mata, 32, was ordered Mata to complete 50 hours of community service and to attend a life-skills class. The sentence, which attracted national attention, came after a one-hour hearing, in which defense attorney Dennis Montoya urged the judge to vacate the jury’s Aug. 8 guilty verdict. “There was no legitimate prosecutorial purpose for these charges against Mata,” Montoya said. He filed an appeal.
Montoya cited the constitutional protection of free speech and a citizen’s right to protest and speak out against government officials. Mata picketed in front of the Farmington Police Department with signs calling officer Mike Briseno a “liar” and “dirty.” The two had a run-in after a 2002 traffic stop. Prosecutor William Cooke said, “I would like the court to abide by the verdict and let the world know that statements made of a personal nature will cause consequences.”