Shooter of police officer changes plea to guilty

By Levi Long
Special to the Times

PHOENIX, April12, 2012

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A defendant accused of shooting and killing Navajo Nation Police Sgt. Darrell Curley was in federal court last week and changed his plea to guilty as part of a plea agreement.

Victor Bigman, 49, appeared in court with his attorney Julio Laboy on April 5 and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder stemming from a June 2011 domestic violence call resulting in a shootout near Kaibeto, Ariz. ƒBigman had been facing a first-degree murder charge and he pleaded not guilty last fall.

By agreeing to the plea agreement, Bigman waived his right to a trial. The plea agreement contains a stipulated sentencing range of 25 to 35 years in prison. The sentence also carries a possible $250,000 fine.

As part of the agreement, an accompanying firearms charge was dropped.

A conviction for second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. In determining Bigman's sentence, U.S. District Judge Ed Voss will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines but is not bound by them.

Sentencing for Bigman is scheduled July 9 in Phoenix but attorneys say the date could change pending other court schedules.

Laboy said the plea change was decided by Bigman and involved consideration for the victims and families.

"Victor's concern was about not putting anyone through the rigor of a trial," Laboy said in a brief telephone interview.

About 35 people, mostly family members of Bigman and Curley and other Navajo Nation members, filled the courtroom last week to hear the change in plea.

Prosecutors told the judge that the audience understood they were not attending a sentencing hearing but were there as a form of support for the proceedings.

After the plea agreement was read, Judge Voss addressed the audience and said everyone in the courtroom can relate to a time in their lives when they wished to turn back the clock by a few seconds, and wished everyone well on their respective journeys.

According to reports, on June 26, Curley and Officer Victor Begay responded to a domestic violence call at the Bigman residence in Kaibeto. Both Curley and Begay arrived in separate vehicles. The call came because of a fight between Bigman's sons Tyson and Johnson.

While Sgt. Curley was arresting Tyson Bigman, reports said Victor Bigman fired four shots at the officer who then returned fire and shot Victor Bigman, wounding him. Curley was later transported to a hospital in Page where he died the following day.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Roger Dokken and Sharon K. Sexton, assistant U.S. attorneys, are handling the prosecution.

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