Special Counsel For Santa Fe Deputy Shooting Case, Delay Of Trial In Navajo Officer's Death

Dec 23, 2017

Special Counsel Appointed In Santa Fe Deputy Shooting CaseAssociated Press

Special counsel has been appointed to prosecute the case of a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy whose first two trials in the killing of another deputy ended when juries couldn't agree on a verdict.

Dona Ana County District Attorney Mark D'Antonio made the announcement Friday, saying two attorneys with New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance will work the case going forward.

D'Antonio said the new counsel will provide "fresh eyes and a rigorous prosecutorial perspective."

The third trial of ex-Deputy Tai Chan is set for April 9 in Las Cruces.

According to testimony, Chan is accused of shooting fellow Deputy Jeremy Martin in the back as Martin fled during an argument at the hotel where they had stopped on a trip to transport a prisoner to Arizona. Chan has claimed self-defense.

Complexity Prompts Delay Of Trial In Navajo Officer's Death Associated Press

It will be 2019 before the man accused of gunning down a tribal police officer in a remote corner of the nation's largest American Indian reservation will stand trial.

The Gallup Independent reports the trial for Kirby Cleveland is being pushed back again due to the complexity of the case given that a conviction could carry the possibility of a death sentence.

The parties requested more time to prepare and line up experts who specialize in everything from DNA to firearms.

Cleveland faces murder and weapons charges in the killing of Navajo Nation Officer Houston James Largo, who was shot March 11 on a dark road in western New Mexico while responding to a domestic violence call.

Before the shooting, Cleveland's wife had called authorities saying he had been drinking and became angry.

Insurance Regulator Seeks Stop To Surprise Medical Billing Associated Press

New Mexico's top insurance regulator wants new legislation to stop medical providers from hitting patients with unexpected bills for services they thought were covered by their health insurance.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Insurance Superintendent John Franchini has drafted legislation seeking to ease the burden of surprise health care billing on the patients.

Franchini says he is seeking comment from the public on the legislation that aims to restrict out-of-network billing for some medical procedures and require more transparency from providers.

Franchini says this is a big issue and it's not fair to New Mexico policyholders to be hit by surprise medical bills.

Franchini plans to pursue this legislation for the session that begins next month.

New Mexico Police Arrest Same Man For DWI Twice In 6 Days Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say their officers have arrested the same man on suspicion of driving drunk twice in six days.

The first stop was made Dec. 14 along U.S. 64 for a registration violation.

The driver, identified as James Lee, did not stop until reaching the border of the Navajo Nation. He ended up begin charged with driving while under the influence, driving on a revoked license and an unreadable registration.

A warrant was subsequently issued for the charges by the 11th District Attorney's Office.

On Dec. 20, Lee was stopped again along the same stretch of highway. The officer spotted an open container of alcohol in the vehicle and arrested Lee following a field sobriety test.

Lee was booked into the San Juan County jail. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

New Mexico Jobless Rate Remains Steady For November Associated Press

New Mexico's unemployment rate remained unchanged in November at 6.1 percent, notably less than the 6.7 percent logged for the same period last year.

The state jobless rate is still higher than the national rate, but labor officials say New Mexico for the 12th straight month recorded aggregate gains in the private sector that resulted in 12,600 jobs, or 2 percent growth.

The latest figures released by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions show private service industries reported an additional 10,200 jobs, while goods-producing industries grew by 2,400 jobs.

Construction employment was up 3,000 jobs, or 6.7 percent, which represented the largest numeric and percentage gain of all industries.

The mining industry saw jobs fall by 600. Local, state and federal government jobs also have dropped over the past year.

Judge Oks New Voting Districts In Racial Discrimination Case Associated Press

A federal judge is approving new county election districts in southeastern Utah after finding the boundaries discriminated against American Indians who make up roughly half the population.

The new San Juan County voting districts are designed to give native residents an equal voice in local races, but commissioner Phil Lyman said Friday they are unfair and the county plans to appeal.

Local Navajo leader Mark Maryboy, meanwhile, calls the ruling a well-deserved victory.

The Navajo Nation, which also stretches into New Mexico and Arizona, sued Utah's San Juan County in 2012. They said school board and county commission districts were racially gerrymandered.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby declared the boundaries unconstitutional. The judge appointed an independent expert to draw new ones and personally ran public meetings to hear local feedback.

Albuquerque Man Gets 15-Year Sentence For Deacon's Death Associated Press

A man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the death of an Albuquerque carpenter and church deacon who police say was run over while trying to stop five teenagers from stealing his van.

Albuquerque Journal reports 20-year-old Xavier Montoya was sentenced Thursday after pleading no contest to second-degree murder for the death of Hector Aguirre.

Montoya will serve the sentence concurrently with an unrelated 19-year sentence for robbery and kidnapping.

Family members of Montoya say he fell into drug use leading up to his arrest.

Police say Aguirre held onto the van as the teens attempted to steal it in September 2016.

Cornelius McCullum who was also charged for the death recently agreed to a plea deal. Three others charged in Aguirre's death are awaiting trial.

NMSU Works With Navajos To Boost Backyard Gardens Associated Press

Agricultural experts at New Mexico State University are working with Native Americans in the northwest corner of the state to boost interest in backyard gardening.

Officials with NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences say the arid stretch between Gallup and Shiprock used to be home to fruit trees and crops of corn, beans and squash.

As the climate has changed and access to water has decreased, many families have stopped raising gardens so NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service has obtained federal funding for a program to revive the tradition.

During the recent growing season, officials say 19 families were raising backyard gardens. Four schools and three chapter houses also had some form of gardens.

The program helps with fencing, soil supplements, tools, water hoses and drip irrigation lines.