Testing Time Reduced For Students, Ex Deputy Faces 3rd Murder Trial

Jun 6, 2017

Testing Time For New Mexico Students To Be Reduced - The Associated Press

The time New Mexico students spend taking standardized tests will be further reduced starting next school year and they'll have an additional two weeks of learning thanks to a shorter testing window.

State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera announced the changes Tuesday, saying they're in response to feedback received from parents, teachers and school administrators during a statewide listening tour.

Skandera said to push for the changes, she worked with education officials in several other states that administer the assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

New Mexico officials also expect the results to be available much sooner this year so teachers, schools and parents can begin preparing for the fall.

The assessments have been the focus of criticism since being adopted in 2015.

Ex-Santa Fe County Sheriff's Deputy Facing 3rd Murder TrialThe Associated Press

A former New Mexico sheriff's deputy charged in the 2014 shooting death of a fellow deputy during what authorities described as an alcohol-fueled dispute is facing a third trial.

State prosecutors announced Tuesday that they intend to retry Tai Chan on murder charges after two previous trials ended in mistrials.

Chan was charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 death of Jeremy Martin.

The two Santa Fe County deputies had stopped in Las Cruces for the night after transporting an inmate and had been drinking before the shooting.

Chan claims he acted in self-defense.

His first trial ended in a hung jury in June 2016.

Jurors also couldn't reach a unanimous verdict in the second trial that ended last month.

New Mexico AG Sues Discount Chain Over Obsolete Motor OilThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is suing the discount chain Dollar General for false advertising and unfair trade practices for selling what he describes as obsolete motor oil.

The lawsuit was filed late Monday in state district court. It follows numerous other legal complaints filed against the company in recent years in Texas, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

The New Mexico lawsuit claims the Tennessee-based chain knowingly marketed, distributed and sold its own brand of oil from 2010 through February 2017 although it was not suitable for modern engines.

The state contends the oil can damage engines and deactivate emissions control equipment.

Balderas wants Dollar General to notify customers and pay for any repairs or replace vehicles if necessary.

Dollar General did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest lawsuit.

New Mexico Man Who Fatally Shot Customer Acquitted Of MurderThe Associated Press and The Las Cruces Sun-News

A former New Mexico car wash owner who shot and killed a customer in 2015 during a fight over dog feces has been acquitted by a 12-person jury.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports 59-year-old Leo Molina was found not guilty on Monday after a five-day trial. He was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 39-year-old Gregory Fernandez.

Molina shot Fernandez three times in the chest with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun during a fight at the car wash, where Fernandez had rinsed away dog feces from the bed of his pickup.

Molina testified Friday and maintained that he shot Fernandez in self-defense as Fernandez attempted to gouge his eyes during their confrontation. Prosecutors argued Molina had deliberately killed Fernandez after becoming enraged about the feces.

Albuquerque Police Reinstate Officer Involved In Boyd ShootingAlbuquerque Journal, KRQE-TV

One of two Albuquerque Police Department officers who stood trial on murder charges over the 2014 shooting death of a homeless camper has been reinstated.

KRQE-TV reports Dominique Perez is on administrative duty and will not be on patrol for one year. He will also get $143,159 in back wages and benefits.

Perez and former detective Keith Sandy stood trial in 2016 on second degree murder charges, but the jury hung and the judge declared a mistrial. District Attorney Raúl Torrez declined to pursue a retrial of the two.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Perez had been fired over the death of Boyd. He will have to go through updated training APD has implemented under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice and pass a psychological exam.

Sandy retired from APD in 2014.

Albuquerque City Council Overrides Budget VetoAlbuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque City Council overrode a veto of the city’s budget by Mayor Richard Berry Monday night.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Berry vetoed the $534 million budget last week and proposed a compromise budget Berry crafted with Councilors Brad Winter and Pat Davis.

But six councilors rejected the compromise. This means the original budget passed by councilors takes effect on July 1. There will likely be some changes to the original budget, which Berry will have to approve.

Berry called the vote one for politics rather than good government.

Pedestrian Killed In Crash Involving Bernalillo DeputyAssociated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department is investigating a fatal crash that involved a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy.

The sheriff's department announced Monday that one of its deputies struck and killed a pedestrian while on patrol early Sunday.

Albuquerque police say the pedestrian who died has been positively identified as 28-year-old Brendan McClure.

They say at this point in the investigation, speed doesn't appear to be a factor in the fatal crash.

Police say their investigation is ongoing.

Sheriff's officials say the deputy involved in the crash has been placed on standard administrative leave while an internal investigation is conducted.

The deputy's name hasn't been released.

First Human Case Of Plague This Year In New Mexico Is ReportedAssociated Press

The state Department of Health has reported the first human case of plague in New Mexico this year.

Health officials say a 63-year-old Santa Fe County man is currently hospitalized with the bacterial disease.

They're conducting an environmental investigation at the man's home to look for ongoing risk and ensure the health of his immediate family and neighbors.

Health Department staff also is going door-to-door near the man's home to inform them about plague found in the area and educate them on reducing their risk.

Plague generally is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, but can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals including rodents, wildlife and pets.

So far there have been 10 dogs and five cats with confirmed plague in New Mexico this year.

University Of New Mexico Names Interim Athletics DirectorAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico has appointed one of its deputy athletics directors to head the department until the position is permanently filled.

The school announced Monday that Janice Ruggiero is taking on the role, making her the first woman to oversee all of the university's athletics programs.

A native New Mexican, Ruggiero is filling in following the abrupt retirement of Paul Krebs, who was facing increasing criticism for the spending of public money on a golf trip that included donors.

University Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said it was an honor to appoint Ruggiero.

She played basketball at UNM for three seasons and graduated with a business degree in 1989. She later earned a master's in sports administration.

She has worked as a coach, an adviser, a compliance officer and an administrator.

New Mexico Lawmakers' Expenses Top $68K For Special Session – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A three-day special session for the New Mexico Legislature cost taxpayers more than $68,000.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Monday that the 70-member House of Representatives received $42,294 and the 42-member Senate received $26,212 in expense and mileage reimbursements for a trip last month to the New Mexico State Capitol.

Gov. Susana Martinez called legislators in after she vetoed the entire budgets for higher education and the bill to balance the operating budget with a menu of tax and fee increases.

Lawmakers met May 24-25 to adopt a new budget and then again on May 30 to sign the budget.

The special session was the second in eight months for the New Mexico lawmakers. A seven-day special session last fall cost about $264,400.

New Mexico Moves Forward With Bail ReformsAssociated Press

New Mexico's judiciary is taking final steps toward overhauling its bail and pretrial detention system by adopting detailed rules for determining whether defendants remain in jail as they await judgment.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued comprehensive procedures for district, metropolitan, magistrate, municipal and appellate courts to determine if and when defendants can be released.

New Mexico has joined a growing number of states in adopting risk-based approaches to releasing defendants that put less emphasis on money and bail.

New Mexico voters approved a constitutional amendment in November allowing judges to deny bail to defendants considered extremely dangerous. The constitutional amendment also granted pretrial release to those who are not considered a threat but remain in jail because they can't afford bail.

The new procedures go into effect July 1.

Woman Crashes Glass Ceiling In New Mexico Legislature Associated Press

A woman has ascended to the top of another male-dominated bastion of power in state government — the influential joint finance committee that drafts the New Mexico state budget.

Democratic Rep. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup took the reins Tuesday as chairwoman of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee that commands subpoena powers and a staff of 38.

She's the first female to lead the committee in its 60-year history, as women take leading roles on state finance committees that hold purse strings for vital programs and projects.

In Texas, Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson in 2015 became the first woman in state history to chair a budget-writing committee. Oklahoma this year has female chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees for the first time.

New Mexico Marks 50th Anniversary Of Chicano Courthouse RaidAssociated Press

New Mexico is marking the 50th anniversary of a violent courthouse raid by Mexican-American activists that generated national attention and helped spark the Chicano Movement.

Various events around the state are scheduled this week to commemorate the raid in rural northern New Mexico, an event that is still hotly debated in the American Southwest.

The raid was connected to age-old Spanish land grant disputes and catapulted Texas-born activist Reies Lopez Tijerina into the spotlight as a radical Chicano leader.

During the June 5, 1967, raid, the group shot and wounded a state police officer and jailer, beat a deputy, and took the sheriff and a reporter hostage before escaping to the Kit Carson National Forest.

The armed attack outraged some, but sparked excitement among Mexican-American college students of the Chicano Movement.

Albuquerque Renames Community Center After Johnny TapiaAssociated Press

The hometown of late boxing champ Johnny Tapia has renamed a community center in his honor.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry recently signed a measure to rename the Wells Park Community Center the "Johnny Tapia Community Center at Wells Park."

The measure also directs city officials to place a sculpture of Johnny Tapia at the center.

Tapia, who was raised in Albuquerque's Wells Park Neighborhood, won several championships in three weight classes.

During his professional career, he was banned from boxing for 3 1/2 years in the early '90s because of his cocaine addiction but remained a hero among Albuquerque's Mexican Americans.

He died in 2012.

Former Navajo Nation Vice President Irvin Billy Dies At 77Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials say funeral services are scheduled Tuesday for one of the tribe's former vice presidents.

They announced Monday that Irvin Marcus Billy died last Friday in Tuba City, Arizona at age 77.

The cause of death wasn't immediately released.

Billy was the tribe's interim vice president during the Leonard Haskie administration from 1989 to 1991.

He previously served as a Navajo Council delegate representing the Tuba City chapter and was the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Regional Director for the Western Agency.

Billy is survived by four children, 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren along with two sisters.

His funeral is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Jude Catholic Church in Tuba City.

The Navajo Nation covers more than 27,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

New Mexico Looks To Boost Enrollment In Child Care Program - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The number of low-income families tapping into government-funded child care assistance is steadily increasing, but New Mexico officials say two-thirds of those who are eligible have yet to enroll.

Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson says her agency is working to raise awareness about the program as New Mexico's elected leaders look for ways to tackle generational poverty issues.

The state has among the nation's highest poverty rates, and both agency officials and advocates see the program as an opportunity to help parents with continued education or employment while keeping children safe.

Jacobson says some progress is being made, pointing to data that shows more children are being served through the child care assistance program now than just two years ago.

Still, advocates are worried about future state and federal funding for the program.

Woman, Teen Arrested In Las Cruces Pellet Gun Shooting CaseAssociated Press

Authorities say a woman and a teenage boy have been arrested for allegedly driving around Las Cruces and firing a pellet gun toward at least two pedestrians.

Las Cruces police say 18-year-old Dana Armendariz is being held without bond at the Dona Ana County Detention Center while the teen is being held in the juvenile section of the detention center.

The Associated Press isn't disclosing his name because he's a juvenile.

Police say Armendariz allegedly was driving a vehicle with the teen armed with a pellet rifle as a front-seat passenger around 6 p.m. Sunday.

The boy is suspected of firing rounds at two pedestrians who weren't struck.

One of the victims took a picture of the car's license plate and forwarded it to police, leading to the two arrests.