Dem Congress Hopeful Facing Questions Amid Misconduct Cases, More Jobs For Immigration Cases

May 3, 2018

Dem Congress Hopeful Facing Questions Amid Misconduct Case- Associated Press

A congressional candidate and former chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico is facing accusations from a former Democratic official that she failed to address a misconduct claim.

Nicole Bagg, a former New Mexico Democratic National Committee Platform committeewoman, said Thursday that former chairwoman Deb Haaland ignored her complaint involving former Doña Ana County commissioner who later resigned over misconduct accusations.

But in a statement, Haaland strongly disputed Bagg's story and said she helped push for the first statewide sexual harassment policy for the state Democratic Party.

Haaland was chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico from 2015 to 2017. If elected, she'll be the nation's first Native American congresswoman.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico confirmed it received no formal complaints while Haaland was chair.

New Mexico Man Accused Of Prostituting 7-Year-Old Daughter- Associated Press

A New Mexico father is accused of prostituting his 7-year-old daughter and forcing the girl and her brother to panhandle and pick pockets, authorities say.

Court records show James Stewart Sr., 37, was booked early Thursday on charges that include human trafficking, criminal sexual contact of a minor, child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and promoting prostitution. It wasn't immediately clear if Stewart had an attorney.

Agents with the New Mexico Attorney General's Office began investigating in April after getting a call from a school nurse who had concerns that the girl might be a victim of sexual assault.

Court documents also refer to previous instances that date back to 2012 in which police and state child welfare workers had contact with the family.

While the latest case is still unfolding and more interviews are being conducted, Attorney General Hector Balderas said the top priority was ensuring the children are safe.

More US Prosecutors, Judges Added For Immigration CasesAssociated Press

The Justice Department has announced it is adding prosecutors and judges to deal with a backlog of immigration cases along the southwestern U.S.-Mexico border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday in a statement from Washington, D.C., that 35 new assistant U.S. Attorney jobs have been created to help prosecute improper entry, illegal re-entry and immigrant smuggling in the four states bordering Mexico.

The department says the new positions in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are part of the "zero-tolerance policy" Sessions announced last month to deal with a new surge in apprehensions along the border.

To deal with an already existing backlog of cases, 18 supervising immigration judges are being assigned to hear cases in immigration courts near the border, both in person and through video teleconferencing.

'Better Call Saul' Stars To Read Beloved Books In New MexicoAssociated Press

Two stars of the AMC-TV series "Better Call Saul" want to share their favorite books.

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn are scheduled to read from their most treasured works of literature at the Albuquerque bookstore, Bookworks, on Saturday.

The event is aimed at promoting literacy in New Mexico.

"Better Call Saul" follows Jimmy McGill, played by Odenkirk, who later changes his name to Saul Goodman and becomes an attorney for drug lords in "Breaking Bad." Seehorn plays lawyer Kim Wexler, a love interest of McGill.

Odenkirk played the lawyer of Bryan Cranston's character, Walter White, in "Breaking Bad." Both shows are set in Albuquerque.

Students Across The US Walk Out To Support Gun OwnershipAssociated Press

Students across the U.S. participated in a school walkout Wednesday to support gun ownership.

The walkout was organized by New Mexico student Will Riley. More than 200 of his classmates walked out with him.

Riley said in the days before the walkout that about 300 schools planned to participate. The movement was called "Stand for the Second," aiming to raise awareness of Second Amendment rights.

Walkouts were also reported in schools in Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New York and North Carolina.

Riley was named an honorary sheriff's deputy last week by Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage for his efforts in organizing the walkouts.

Cage said Wednesday that he was highly impressed with the Carlsbad High School event.

Police Called To Investigate Native Americans On Campus TourDenver Post, Associated Press

Colorado State University officials say two Native American prospective students touring campus were questioned by campus police after a parent on the tour called to report that she was nervous about their presence.

The Denver Post reports that CSU officers spoke with the students, confirmed both were part of the admissions tour, and released them, but their tour group had moved on without them. The men left campus and returned home to New Mexico.

The university is reviewing the incident. Officials said in an e-mail to students that the "incident is sad and frustrating from nearly every angle."

University officials couldn't be reached for further comment.

Albuquerque Begins Search For Permanent Police ChiefAssociated Press

Mayor Tim Keller says Albuquerque has launched its search for a permanent police chief and he expects to make a final appointment in June.

Interim Chief Michael Geier, a former Albuquerque police officer and Rio Rancho police chief, has been leading the department since Keller became mayor in December.

The mayor's office anticipates that Geier will apply for the permanent position.

The search comes as Albuquerque police implement reforms mandated by an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. As part of the 2014 agreement, the city has overhauled use-of-force policies and enacted other reforms.

The police force also has struggled to fill its ranks, which fell to roughly 800 officers in recent years. Experts say Albuquerque should have about 1,200 officers.

Keller said Wednesday he wants a chief who knows the Albuquerque Police Department but also has outside leadership experience.

New Mexico Legislature Seeks Outside CounselAssociated Press

Leading New Mexico state legislators say they will consult with outside counsel regarding allegations of sexual harassment against a state lawmaker by a former lobbyist.

In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker Brian Egolf and four female Democratic lawmakers described as deeply troubling the harassment allegations against Rep. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe.

Animal rights advocate and former political lobbyist Laura Bonar has accused Trujillo in an open letter of inappropriate sexual advances in 2013 and 2014 and urged him to resign. Trujillo is denouncing allegations against him as lies orchestrated by political opponents.

Egolf says outside counsel will help determine how to proceed, with consideration for Bonar's wishes regarding a possible investigation. Bonar has not filed a harassment complaint with the Legislature or in court.

ACLU Hits New Mexico Sheriff On Immigrant CasesKTSM-TV, Associated Press

A civil liberties group says a southern New Mexico sheriff is "deceiving the public" by secretly cooperating with federal agents on immigration cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said Wednesday it is "deeply troubling" that documents showed Doña Ana County Sheriff Enrique Vigil referred hundreds of cases to U.S. Customs and Border Protection despite previous claims he wouldn't enforce immigration laws.

KTSM-TV in El Paso, Texas, reports documents obtained by the station this week showed that Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office forwarded more than 500 cases to Customs and Border Protection between October 2016 and September 2017.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Enrique Vigil told the station last month that his deputies didn't enforce federal immigration laws.

A spokeswoman for Vigil did not immediately return an email.

Carlsbad Woman Changes Plea To Guilty In $800K EmbezzlementAssociated Press

A Carlsbad woman has changed her plea to guilty in an $800,000 embezzlement scheme.

Prosecutors say 54-year-old Lori Whitaker pleaded guilty Wednesday to a wire fraud charge.

She had pleaded not guilty to the charge two months ago.

Prosecutors say Whitaker must pay more than $816,000 in restitution to her former employer and is facing up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced.

Whitaker was an office manager for the Otis Mutual Domestic Water Consumers and Sewage Works Association.

The non-profit association provides potable water and a wastewater system to more than 4,300 people in Otis, New Mexico.

Whitaker allegedly transmitted funds between March 2015 and February 2017 as part of a scheme to defraud the association.

Prosecutors say the 75 wired transactions ranged from $416 to nearly $16,000.

Tribe Says More Than 100 Horses Apparent Victims Of DroughtAssociated Press

Dozens of horses have died on tribal land in northern Arizona, apparently after getting trapped in a muddy stock pond.

Navajo Nation spokesman Mihio Manus said Wednesday that 111 horses died in the pond over the past week. Officials are trying to determine how best to deal with the carcasses.

The stock pond near Cameron typically is one of the last in the region to dry up. But Manus says drought conditions left it without much water from runoff this year.

Photos show clusters of horses with dried mud on their bodies.

Manus says foul play is not suspected.

The tribe has struggled over the years with how to manage large populations of feral horses. Individual Navajo communities can request roundups, but public outcry has halted such efforts in the past.

More Cases Of Whooping Cough Now Reported In McKinley CountyAssociated Press

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Health are reporting more cases of whooping cough in an ongoing community-wide outbreak in McKinley County.

They are urging state residents in at-risk groups to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, there are 26 laboratory-confirmed cases of whooping cough and an additional 39 probable cases.

When health officials first announced the outbreak on March 14, there were eight laboratory-confirmed cases of whooping cough with 15 probable cases.

The cases continue to be primarily occurring in school-aged children and their close household contacts.

Whooping cough — also called pertussis — is a highly contagious respiratory illness that spreads by coughing and sneezing while in close contact with others.

2 Christian Sect Leaders Face More Charges In New MexicoGallup Independent, Associated Press

Two leaders of a paramilitary religious sect with anti-Semitic leanings and rocked by child sexual abuse allegations are facing new charges.

The Gallup Independent reports Deborah and James Green, leaders of the Aggressive Christian Mission Training Corps in western New Mexico, are facing new charges of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence.

Those charges are added to the roughly 18 charges filed against each of the Greens, alleging kidnapping and child abuse, among others.

Last year, authorities raided the sect's secluded Fence Lake, New Mexico compound over concerns of child abuse.

A number of members face various charges ranging from child abuse, bribery and not reporting a birth.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Proposed Rule On Teacher Preparation Programs Draws PushbackAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A rule that would allow the New Mexico Public Education Department to oversee teacher preparation programs has garnered criticism and pushback by school leaders and education groups.

The Albuquerque Journal reports speakers at a public hearing Tuesday described the proposal as overreaching and premature with some questioning the legality of the rule's evaluation system.

The proposal would allow the agency to decide whether preparation programs can continue operating. The programs are currently operated by national teacher accreditation groups.

Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski says improving teacher preparation is a multifaceted process. He says the state "must leave nothing to chance when it comes to preparing aspiring teachers for our students."

The department has proposed implementing the rule by the end of the month.

Albuquerque Man Rescues 2-Year-Old Boy From Burning TentAssociated Press

A 22-year-old Albuquerque man is being called a hero after saving a 2-year-old boy from a burning tent.

The boy's great-grandmother Betty Purvis says Kierre Caldwell had been playing in her backyard on Sunday when the tent caught fire.

She says she tried to save the boy from the flames, but an explosion knocked her down.

Her neighbor, Philip Hall, saw what was happening and rescued Kierre, although he was also burned in the process.

Kierre was airlifted to Denver and Hall was airlifted to Lubbock, Texas for treatment.

Hall's sister Cassandra Rhinehart says he is in critical but stable condition with several upcoming surgeries.

Purvis says Kierre will also need numerous surgeries, but should be able to pull through thanks to Hall.

Artists Seek Films In Navajo Language For Inaugural FestivalDurango Herald, Associated Press

A group of artists is seeking Navajo speakers with a knack for storytelling to submit shorts to the inaugural Navajo Film Festival.

The Durango Herald reported Wednesday that filmmakers of all ages are asked to submit four-minute films, entirely in the Navajo language, for a potential cash prize and a public screening on June 23.

Tacey Atsitty, a Navajo poet and director of the festival's organizing board, made rounds in April to promote the event and seek filmmakers in Arizona, New Mexico and Southwest Colorado.

Atsitty says filmmakers do not have to be Navajo to submit an entry. That's because organizers would like to encourage more people to learn the language.

The deadline for submissions is June 2.