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Jury trial for man accused in Cortez shooting is canceled

Cortez police officers investigate a shooting at a home next to Kemper Elementary Sept. 15 (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Defendant enters guilty plea as part of deal with prosecutors

The jury trial has been canceled for a man charged with allegedly shooting a woman at a residence in Cortez because prosecutors reached a plea agreement with the defendant.

During a court appearance Monday, Gerardo Federico agreed to plead guilty to Count 1 possession of a weapon by a previous offender, a Class 6 felony.

In exchange for the guilty plea, the charges of assault with a deadly weapon and violation of protection order would be dismissed, according to 22nd Judicial District Attorney Matt Margeson.

A weeklong trial had been scheduled to begin today, and potential jurors had been called to the courthouse. However, a power outage halted jury selection, and during the delay, attorneys negotiated a plea agreement.

When asked by District Court Judge Theresa Cisneros about the plea deal, Federico said he was guilty of Count 1 and stated that his “wife was getting attacked,” so “I pulled out a gun.”

Federico is not allowed to possess a gun because of a 2005 felony conviction for attacking a prison guard in the Arizona Department of Corrections, according to Margeson.

Gerardo Federico
Tanya Ahasteen

Federico had planned to argue in the trial that he acted in self-defense, his attorney, Richard Simms, said in a motions hearing Thursday.

Prosecutors planned to present testimony from the shooting victim that she was not involved in the fight with Federico’s wife, court documents say.

Cisneros said she would inform potential jurors that they were excused because the lawyers had resolved the case.

Sentencing is set for 8 a.m. Tuesday. The shooting victim, Tanya Ahasteen, is expected to testify at the sentencing.

Because Federico was on probation, sentencing is in the aggravated range. He faces 15 months to three years in jail based on that standard.

In an unrelated case, Ahasteen and her sister have been jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder of Alvin “AJ” Cayatineto March 9 at his residence south of Cortez. The sisters are being held in Montezuma County Detention Center, and the case is pending.

Victim immunity was granted

Because her testimony in the Federico case could have affected her unrelated homicide case, District Attorney Margeson requested victim immunity for her testimony in Federico’s trial.

Cisneros granted a “use immunity” order for Ahasteen for the trial during a motions hearing Thursday.

The use immunity statute states that “no testimony or other information compelled under the order … may be used against the witness in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury or false statement or otherwise failing to comply with the order.”

According to the motion, Ahasteen indicated she planned to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the Federico case. In his motion for victim immunity, Margeson stated it was needed because her testimony was necessary to proceed with the jury trial.

“The People are left without a path forward to trial if the named victim in this case does not testify,” the motion states.

When victim immunity is granted for witness testimony, the witness is compelled to testify and cannot invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Failure to testify result in contempt of court.

Shooting occurred on Montezuma Avenue

According to Cortez Police Department reports, on Sept. 15 officers responded to 546 E. Montezuma Ave. after reports of an altercation and shooting.

A female identified as Tanya Ahasteen was shot in the leg. Federico was identified as the suspect in the shooting, according to an arrest affidavit, and a 9 mm handgun was recovered by police.

Ahasteen left the scene in a car driven by another woman to go to Southwest Memorial Hospital. The car was pulled over by Cortez police officers. Medics were called to the scene, and she was transported to the hospital.

The incident triggered a five-hour standoff at the residence because police believed Federico was still in the home, but they later learned that he had left the scene. The situation caused the evacuation of nearby Kemper Elementary.

An arrest warrant was issued for Federico, and he was apprehended Oct. 5 at a residence in Lukachukai, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation.