New Mexico Veteran Site Honored, Gov. Makes New Court Appointments

Sep 4, 2017

Memorial Bricks To Be Installed At New Mexico Veterans SiteThe Associated Press

State officials say more than 400 memorial bricks bearing the names of fallen military personnel are being installed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire.

A special ceremony was to be held Saturday morning at the site in northern New Mexico.

Nearly 3,000 memorial bricks currently line the sidewalks and pathways at the memorial.

Two recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor will attend the ceremony, including Hershel "Woody" Williams, who was honored for his heroics during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, and Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura, who was honored for his bravery in the Korean War.

A portion of the ceremony will also be dedicated to members of the New Mexico National Guard.

Martinez Makes Court, Education Commission AppointmentsThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has announced new appointments to state court in Alamogordo and to the public education commission.

The governor said Friday that Steven Blankinship of Alamogordo was appointed to first division of the 12th Judicial District Court, replacing Judge Jerry Ritter, Jr., who retired.

Blankinship was the deputy district attorney in that court and also served in the 3rd Judicial District Attorney's Office. Blankinship was a member of the governor's executive staff from 2012 to 2017. He has a law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio.

The Public Education Commission also has a new member in David Robbins of Albuquerque. Robbins will replace Commissioner Millie Pogna. Pogna passed away. Robbins previously served on the APS board and taught at the University of New Mexico.

Longtime Lawmaker Who Led On Budget Issues Dies At 82Associated Press

A longtime legislator who his colleagues say used his budget savvy to guide the state through turbulent economic times has died.

Luciano "Lucky" Varela died Saturday in Santa Fe after recent health issues. He was 82.

Luciano Varela, who at one point during his long career in public service served as state controller, represented a state House district in the Santa Fe area from 1987 to 2016.

Varela, a Democrat, was chairman of the powerful Legislative Finance Committee and was regarded as a top budget expert, The Albuquerque Journal reported. He played a major role in 2010 legislation aimed at curbing the practice of allowing retired state workers to return to work while still collecting pension benefits, the Journal reported.

In the 2016 legislative session, he sponsored unsuccessful legislation that year to increase the state's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and repeal dozens of tax breaks in state law, the newspaper said.

Hacker Drama 'Mr. Robot' Filming In New MexicoAssociated Press

The USA Network hacker drama "Mr. Robot" is filming in New Mexico.

The state film office says work on the award-winning series will continue through early September in Albuquerque.

The production employs about 75 New Mexico crew members, 18 principal actors and stunt players from the state and several dozen extras. Film Office Director Nick Maniatis described it as another great TV show that will have an economic impact on the state.

The popular series was created by director, writer and executive producer Sam Esmail. It stars Rami Malek as anti-social computer programmer Elliot Alderson and Christian Slater as the cryptic Mr. Robot.

The show's third season premieres Oct. 11.

Fake Facebook Kidnapping Post Causes Stir In New MexicoCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

A fake social media post about more than a dozen men involved in multiple kidnappings of children has caused a stir in one southeastern New Mexico city.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports several Facebook users alleged 16 men recently were arrested for their supposed roles in kidnappings of children from a Walmart in Carlsbad.

But the Carlsbad Police Department debunked the rumor on its Facebook timeline in a bid to quell potential panic.

Police say the kidnapping and stalking allegations were false, and that no investigation or arrests were undertaken by the department.

Detective Jon Blackmon says the post originated from a female user outside of Carlsbad.

Chiefs' Owner Sued Over New Mexico Investment DealKansas City Star, Associated Press

The owner of the Kansas City Chiefs is being accused in a lawsuit of improperly receiving hundreds of millions in state investment money through a kickback deal with New Mexico officials.

The Kansas City Star reports Sunday the New Mexico State Investment Council filed the lawsuit recently against Clark Hunt and HFV Asset Management. The story was first reported by the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican.

Hunt didn't comment to the newspaper on the lawsuit Sunday morning.

The lawsuit says Hunt made a deal 12 years ago with two men with political connections who promised to steer New Mexico investment money to a hedge fund in exchange for payments. Hunt was a partner in the hedge fund.

New Mexico awarded $300 million to the hedge fund and paid millions in management fees.

US Agency Says Albuquerque May Have To Repay GrantsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General says the city of Albuquerque may have to repay about $3 million in grant funds due to sloppy record keeping and inadequate staff.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the audit of the city's Community Development Block Grant program was issued last month.

The report says Albuquerque "did not have the capacity to implement an effective grant administration"

The Office of Inspector General is asking the local Housing and Urban Development office to extend the city's designation as a "high risk grantee for an additional year to allow the city the opportunity to continue administering its Community Development Block Grant program to Albuquerque residents."

The local Housing and Urban Development office has six months to respond to the recommendations.

3 Dead In New Mexico Battery Tank ExplosionAssociated Press

Authorities in New Mexico say three people were found dead in a battery tank explosion.

The explosion was reported Friday morning near Carlsbad in far southeastern New Mexico.

The Eddy County sheriff's office says it took about three hours to contain the blaze before the bodies were found, though they haven't been identified.

A tank battery is used to store and process oil wells.

It's unclear what caused the explosion.

New Mexico Judge Could Release Priests' Sex Abuse DocumentsAssociated Press

A New Mexico judge is reviewing three binders filled with years-old documents on three former Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children to decide what records should and shouldn't be released to the public.

Judge Alan Malott said Friday there is good cause to open sealed records, but that he will review them "with an eye toward what is appropriate for public disclosure."

Malott is reviewing the records in response to a request by KOB-TV, which filed in July as an intervenor in seven clerical abuse cases for the purpose of obtaining court records.

The attorney for the archdiocese, Robert Warburton of Albuquerque, said release of the records would endanger the archdiocese's right to a fair trial, and endangers the privacy rights of victims and their families.

New Mexico's Voter Roll Drops By More Than 85,000Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's voter rolls have decreased by more than 85,000 people since last year's general election after county clerks in all 33 counties conducted a "purge."

The Albuquerque Journal reported that New Mexico conducts purges in odd-numbered years to remove voters no longer eligible to cast ballots — such as voters who have died and those who have moved.

After the latest purge, New Mexico has slightly more than 1.2 million registered voters. Of that amount, roughly 46 percent are registered Democrats and 31 percent are registered Republicans, with the rest either identifying as independent or affiliating with other political parties.

Those voter affiliation percentages were largely unchanged from the 2016 general election.

New Mexico State Reports Jump In Freshman EnrollmentAssociated Press

New Mexico State University is reporting the largest increase in first-time freshmen enrollment in more than 17 years.

The university announced Friday that the number of first-time freshmen enrolled for the fall semester is up more than 11 percent from the same time last year. Branch transfers at NMSU are also up more than 17 percent.

Chancellor Garry Carruthers says he feels the university is turning a corner and that marketing and recruitment efforts are paying off. He noted the increase comes even as the school has increased its admissions standards and adopted a first-year, on-campus residency requirement.

The university says the upswing in first-year enrollment on the Las Cruces campus could help to mitigate enrollment declines NMSU has experienced since seeing peak enrollment during the Great Recession.

New Mexico Prosecutors Revive 2013 Sex Assault CaseAssociated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has refiled charges stemming from a 2013 rape case that had been dropped by local prosecutors after it was discovered evidence had been destroyed.

Court records show 34-year-old Eli Kronenanker of Albuquerque was arrested late Thursday on charges of criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping, aggravated assault and witness intimidation.

Defense attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara said Friday she needs to see what evidence prosecutors plan to present before commenting on the case.

Kronenanker was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl he met after exchanging text messages. The victim told police the suspect held a gun to her head and later threatened her not to tell anyone.

According to court documents, investigators say there was enough of a DNA sample taken from the victim's clothing in 2013 to allow for more testing.