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FRI: Grand jury indicts Alec Baldwin in movie set shooting, + More

FILE - In this image from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, Alec Baldwin speaks with investigators following a fatal shooting on a movie set in Santa Fe, N.M. No one is objecting to a settlement agreement to resolve allegations of workplace safety violations in the 2021 shooting death of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on the set of a Western movie. (Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office
FILE - In this image from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, Alec Baldwin speaks with investigators following a fatal shooting on a movie set in Santa Fe, N.M. No one is objecting to a settlement agreement to resolve allegations of workplace safety violations in the 2021 shooting death of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on the set of a Western movie. (Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

Grand jury indicts Alec Baldwin in fatal shooting of cinematographer on movie set in New Mexico - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A grand jury indicted Alec Baldwin on Friday on an involuntary manslaughter charge in a 2021 fatal shooting during a rehearsal on a movie set in New Mexico, reviving a dormant case against the actor.

Special prosecutors brought the case before a grand jury in Santa Fe this week, months after receiving a new analysis of the gun that was used. They declined to answer questions after spending about a day and a half presenting their case to the grand jury.

Defense attorneys for Baldwin indicated they'll fight the charges.

"We look forward to our day in court," said Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, defense attorneys for Baldwin, in an email.

While the proceeding is shrouded in secrecy, two of the witnesses seen at the courthouse included crew members — one who was present when the fatal shot was fired and another who had walked off the set the day before due to safety concerns.

Baldwin, the lead actor and a co-producer on the Western movie "Rust," was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal on a movie set outside Santa Fe in October 2021 when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has said he pulled back the hammer, but not the trigger, and the gun fired.

The charges have again put Baldwin in legal trouble and created the possibility of prison time for an actor who has been a TV and movie mainstay for nearly 40 years, with roles in the early blockbuster "The Hunt for Red October," Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" and the sitcom "30 Rock."

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of the West Coast Trial Lawyers firm in Los Angeles, pointed to previous missteps by prosecutors and said they will have an uphill battle to convict Baldwin given that his legal team has been on offense since the case began.

"Baldwin has unlimited resources. And he's going to put on a really aggressive defense," Rahmani said, saying prosecutors will need to do more than present ballistics evidence to make a case that Baldwin had a broader responsibility and legal duty when it came to handling the gun on the set.

Judges recently agreed to put on hold several civil lawsuits seeking compensation from Baldwin and producers of "Rust" after prosecutors said they would present charges to a grand jury. Plaintiffs in those suits include members of the film crew.

Special prosecutors dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin in April, saying they were informed the gun might have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned. They later pivoted and began weighing whether to refile a charge against Baldwin after receiving a new analysis of the gun.

The analysis from experts in ballistics and forensic testing relied on replacement parts to reassemble the gun fired by Baldwin, after parts of the pistol were broken during testing by the FBI. The report examined the gun and markings it left on a spent cartridge to conclude that the trigger had to have been pulled or depressed.

The analysis led by Lucien Haag of Forensic Science Services in Arizona stated that although Baldwin repeatedly denied pulling the trigger, "given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver."

The weapons supervisor on the movie set, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in the case. Her trial is scheduled to begin in February.

"Rust" assistant director and safety coordinator David Halls pleaded no contest to unsafe handling of a firearm last March and received a suspended sentence of six months of probation. He agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the shooting.

An earlier FBI report on the agency's analysis of the gun found that, as is common with firearms of that design, it could go off without pulling the trigger if force was applied to an uncocked hammer, such as by dropping the weapon.

The only way the testers could get it to fire was by striking the gun with a mallet while the hammer was down and resting on the cartridge, or by pulling the trigger while it was fully cocked. The gun eventually broke during testing.

The 2021 shooting resulted in a series of civil lawsuits, including wrongful death claims filed by members of Hutchins' family, centered on accusations that the defendants were lax with safety standards. Baldwin and other defendants have disputed those allegations.

The Rust Movie Productions company has paid a $100,000 fine to state workplace safety regulators after a scathing narrative of failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.

The filming of "Rust" resumed last year in Montana, under an agreement with the cinematographer's widower, Matthew Hutchins, that made him an executive producer.

Legislation seeks to stop libraries from banning booksNew Mexico Political Report, KUNM

Lawmakers are looking to ban public libraries from banning books based on political or religious views.

New Mexico Political Report’s Nicole Maxwell reports House Bill 123 would prevent public libraries from receiving funding if they don’t adopt and comply with the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights.

That includes a requirement that library materials not be removed based on “partisan or doctrinal disapproval” because of an author’s race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation or political or religious views.

The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kathleen Cates of Rio Rancho, where an effort last year to ban certain books from the city’s public libraries was unsuccessful. The bill alsorequires public libraries have a written policy prohibiting book bans. And it prevents political subdivisions from reducing funding for a library or library system for adhering to the bill.

The bill only applies to public libraries. School libraries are under the jurisdiction of the Public Education Department.

Prosecutors: No evidence of intent by N.M.’s fake electors - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico 

At noon on Dec. 14, 2020, New Mexico’s five presidential electors met in a committee room on the third floor of the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe to cast the electoral college votes for Joe Biden, who won the state by more than 100,000 votes.

At the same time, the five Republican elector nominees met downstairs in the east lobby at the Roundhouse to hold their own “mirror image” meeting to cast their electoral votes for Donald Trump.

Details about the meeting were presented to lawmakers on Wednesday. Sean Sullivan, a New Mexico Department of Justice prosecutor who was later assigned to investigate, said four of the original fake electors attended the meeting: Jewll Powdrell, Deborah W. Maestas, Lupe Garcia, and Rosie Tripp.

Harvey Yates was originally nominated as a fifth GOP elector, but he wasn’t in the state at the time, so the rest of the group instead nominated Anissa Ford-Tinnin, who was the New Mexico Republican Party’s executive director, Sullivan said.

Also present at the meeting were incoming state GOP executive director Nike Kern (who recorded the meeting on video with her phone) and her husband John Kern. That video, Sullivan said, demonstrates the fake electors were “rather unprepared and unfamiliar with the process.”

Powdrell chaired the meeting, and could be seen frequently looking off-camera and taking cues from John Kern, who “had nothing to do with this, he happened to be a lawyer and adept at paperwork,” Sullivan said.

Legitimate presidential electors certify who their votes for president and vice president are going to be by signing what is called a certificate of votes, Sullivan said.

The fake electors signed a certificate of votes saying they were only certifying the electoral votes if they were determined later to be the valid electors for those states, he said.

“We the undersigned, on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are duly elected and qualified electors,” the document begins. Kern and her husband later sent it to the National Archives and former vice president Mike Pence in his capacity in the U.S. Senate, Sullivan said.

“No one there had a very clear sense of what it is they were supposed to be doing, and why it is they were supposed to be doing it,” Sullivan said.

What the Republican electors also didn’t know, Sullivan said, was that in Pennsylvania, GOP electors and their state party chairman felt uncomfortable about signing something holding themselves out as the legitimate electors, when in fact Trump lost the popular vote in that state, too.

According to Sullivan’s summary of his investigation presented to state lawmakers:

To alleviate those concerns, Pennsylvania’s Republican elector nominees on Dec. 12, 2020 spoke with Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Rudy Giuliani, who falsely assured them the certificates would only be used if the campaign won their lawsuit to overturn the results.

Despite those assurances, Chesebro wrote an email later that night to other attorneys in the Trump campaign suggesting they should use conditional language in their document.

“It strikes me that if inserting these few words is a good idea for (Pennsylvania), it might be worth suggesting to electors in other states,” Chesebro wrote. Four or five hours later, he sent another email to Trump campaign lawyers Mike Roman and Joshua Finley providing them with the documents that would be used by New Mexico’s fake electors, without any edits.

Roman forwarded those documents to Thomas Lane, who was the Trump campaign’s executive election day operation director for New Mexico. Lane then forwarded them on to New Mexico’s fake electors at 3:40 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2020.

“New Mexico’s fake electors had no knowledge of the Pennsylvania developments,” Sullivan said. “They were simply presented with a draft certificate that had already had those changes made.”


This gap in knowledge is crucial to the New Mexico Department of Justice’s decision not to charge anyone involved in the 2020 fake presidential elector scheme, and now New Mexico’s top prosecutor is asking the state’s legislature to change election law in order to prevent it from happening again.

First, Attorney General Raúl Torrez wants lawmakers to amend the crime of falsifying election documents to prohibit someone from knowingly falsifying an election document without the additional requirement of an intent to deceive or mislead, and to include a wider range of election documents explicitly protected by the law.

Second, he wants legislators to create a new crime of falsely acting as a presidential elector like the one passed by the Nevada Legislature but vetoed by its governor, and explicitly prohibit anyone from escaping criminal liability by using conditional language similar to what was used by New Mexico’s fake electors.

Sullivan, Torrez and New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver presented the new information during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday.

Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces), who heads the committee, said this session is the last time lawmakers will have an opportunity to make any changes to state law before the next presidential election in November.

Cervantes said he wants Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to put the legislation on the call so that lawmakers can consider it in the short session. Torrez said he has identified “a potential sponsor” in the House of Representatives, but did not name them.


The New Mexico Department of Justice looked at the state’s criminal and election laws to figure whether the fake electors, the state Republican Party, or members of Trump’s team and campaign committed a crime when they drafted, signed and sent the false certificate of votes.

Nothing in the state’s election laws apply to their conduct, according to the department’s final report on its investigation of New Mexico’s false electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

The crime of forgery is what “most closely aligns with the conduct of the fake electors,” according to state officials. Authorities in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada charged their fake electors with that crime.

But after two years of investigation, the New Mexico Department of Justice found the fake electors’ actions only met two of the three elements needed to prove forgery beyond a reasonable doubt.

Forgery in New Mexico must include: (1) falsely making or altering a signature on, or any part of, a written document, (2) the document claims to be legally valid and (3) the person acted with the intent to injure or defraud.

New Mexico’s fake electors met the first two elements but not the third.

The fake electors received and signed a document with language indicating they were not, at the time, New Mexico’s legitimate presidential electors.

Two days earlier on Dec. 12, 2020 at 9:39 p.m., Ford-Tinnin texted with Lane to discuss an impending lawsuit the campaign would file in New Mexico challenging what they perceived to be voting irregularities, Sullivan said.

According to the final report, the fake electors knew the lawsuit would be filed soon after they signed the certificate of votes, and Lane told Ford-Tinnin the certificate would only be used if they won.

“The totality of the evidence does not establish that the fake electors intended to deceive the President of the Senate into thinking that they were the actual electors from New Mexico and using their votes in place of New Mexico’s actual electors without a court ruling overturning the election results,” the department wrote. “Because proof of an essential element of forgery is missing, these individuals cannot be charged with the crime.”

In interviews with state prosecutors, the fake electors said they participated in the scheme to submit placeholder or contingent votes to be counted only if the election results were lawfully changed as a result of Trump’s lawsuit, Sullivan said.

Ford-Tinnin said the electoral votes “weren’t worth the paper they were written on,” because to her knowledge they hadn’t been filed anywhere, Sullivan said investigators found.

Kern described the certificate they signed as an “insurance policy,” he said. Maestas, Tripp, Powdrell and Garcia believed the certificate would only be operative if the lawsuit succeeded, he said.

New Mexico Republican Party chairman Steve Pearce told investigators the electoral votes served a preservation purpose, and they needed to vote on a specific day so if they were successful later on, they had the votes in place, Sullivan said.

“Those statements were corroborated by other documents that we reviewed that took place close in time or contemporaneously with when they were voting,” Sullivan said. “We’re not just taking folks’ word at face value.”

While there was a scheme at the national level to overturn the 2020 election results, New Mexico Department of Justice investigators wrote, it did not extend to New Mexico because the certificate signed by the fake electors contained the conditional language about Trump’s lawsuit.

By contrast, in five other states, Trump’s team and campaign sent draft certificates of votes to Republican Party executives which declared the fake electors to be the legitimate ones.

If a document like that had been sent to New Mexico GOP party executives or the fake electors, the people responsible “may have been guilty of solicitation of forgery under New Mexico law” because they would have been asking the fake electors to submit a false certificate with fraudulent intent, New Mexico Department of Justice investigators wrote.

Feds investigating APD officers; DA dismisses 100+ cases - Elise Kaplan, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ. 

Multiple Albuquerque Police Department officers are being investigated by federal authorities and more than 100 DWI cases have been dismissed “in the interest of justice.”

Late Thursday night, Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, released a statement saying that the department “has been working with the FBI for the past several months on an investigation involving members of the department.”

He said “due to the sensitive nature of the investigation,” some of the officers were put on administrative leave, and others will be temporarily reassigned within the department. He did not identify the officers.

“APD leadership is working closely with the FBI to ensure a complete and thorough investigation can be completed,” Gallegos said.

Earlier on Thursday, federal authorities conducted “law enforcement activity” at the Los Lunas home of an APD officer, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Spokeswoman Tessa Duberry said the activity was done “with the full cooperation of the Albuquerque Police Department” but she declined to comment further.

John D’Amato, an attorney with the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said he was aware of a pending criminal investigation.

“No comment is the word of the day,” D’Amato said. “It’s developing and the facts are unclear.”

Meanwhile, the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office dismissed 144 DWI cases also on Thursday, “in deference to an ongoing federal investigation,” said spokeswoman Nancy Laflin.

She referred all further questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The Law Offices of the Public Defender received a list of the dismissed cases Thursday afternoon.

“We immediately began identifying which clients are impacted and looking into whether there are other cases that may need additional scrutiny,” said Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur in a statement.

New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division wants to issue electronic driver's licenses and ID cards - Associated Press

The New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division wants to develop and issue electronic driver's licenses and identification cards.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Roberto "Bobby" J. Gonzales of Ranchos de Taos would authorize the division to offer electronic credentials to customers at no additional cost to their physical licenses and identification cards.

If the bill is approved by lawmakers, the division would develop the interfaces needed for the licenses to be used with digital wallets in a manner that ensures the security of customers' data.

When opened on a smart phone or similar device, the electronic license or identification card would display a simplified version of the printed credential with more detailed data encrypted in the file.

Electronic credentials can be updated in real time, such as when the division receives an address update from a driver or when a license is suspended or revoked.

"Technology is always changing and this bill will ensure that New Mexico can be at the forefront of the movement toward electronic licenses," Gonzales said Thursday.

Eight states, including Arizona and Colorado, currently offer mobile licenses to their residents, and 10 other states are in various stages of development.

Spurred by school shooting fears, APS rolls out new crisis alert system - By Tierna Unruh-Enos,City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ. 

After an eight-month long wait, Albuquerque Public Schools says it’s ready to roll out a new crisis alert system.

Centegix CrisisAlert system is a safety alert system that would give APS staff the ability to summon help from anywhere on campus.


During a safety drill in 2022, APS discovered a potential problem: teachers struggling to summon help when dealing with a problem in their classroom or elsewhere on campus. Dr. Gabriella Blakey, chief operations officer, and her team began searching for a solution and discovered a company called Centegix and its crisis alert system, which enables teachers to summon help by clicking their badges. That action would send messages to school officials and relay exactly where on campus the emergency is with a mobile alert badge.

Last spring, the Board of Education signed off on the tool, which comes with a $7.3 million price tag.


After one of the largest school shootings in the country at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX in 2022, school crisis alert systems came under heavy scrutiny.

According to reports, poor wi-fi service and a staff desensitized to alerts by frequent notifications diminished the effectiveness of Robb Elementary School’s digital emergency system, in addition to a lack of law enforcement response.

The result was a massacre of 19 students and two teachers.

In the aftermath, schools around the country faced a reckoning with how to set up a secure alert system.

The Centegix alert system touts itself as a better system than the Raptor system which was used in Uvalde. The reason? Centegix doesn’t rely on the school’s WiFi or the cellular network. APS says the system guarantees that the entire campus – be it a ball field or far-off building – would be covered because the company is building its own network.

APS says school staff will get crisis alert badges that must be worn at all times while on campus. If a staffer encounters a medical emergency, students fighting, or another incident and needs help, that staff member would click the badge three times. The badge would vibrate briefly to let the staffer know the signal was received. The call for help would then be relayed to school administrators and public safety.

In an active shooter situation or similar emergency, the staffer would click the crisis alert badge continuously, and that action would automatically trigger a schoolwide lockdown. Strobes in each classroom and throughout the school would flash, and a prerecorded lockdown announcement would be activated advising everyone at the school to lock their doors and follow the school’s emergency protocols. The system would alert school officials and police of the emergency.

All alerts would be monitored at a centralized APS location.

APS also says the badges don’t track employee movements. They only send out location information when they are activated on an APS campus.


TheNew Mexico Public Education Department’s Safe Schools Program requires that all schools create and implement a “Safe Schools Plan.” These plans specify the policies, data collection, and safety measures that schools must maintain. Safe Schools Plans are divided into sections that include Prevention, Protection & Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.

During the 2023 legislative session, state legislators focused on implementing New Mexico school safety solutions in 2023-24.SB 131 appropriates $25 million for public school safety and $75 million for public schools statewide for their local priorities.

According to APS Superintendent Scott Elder, since 2016, APS has spent $39.8 million on things like cameras and alarms, door locks, fencing and gates, card access, and creating secure vestibules at schools. That number doesn’t include the approved funding for the new crisis alert system.

The system is already up and running at West Mesa High School and Washington Middle School, the two schools that were chosen as pilots, and APS plans to go live with the system at another 29 campuses in late January and February. Elder says the goal is to have the system deployed at all schools by later this spring.

Currently, Centegix CrisisAlert system is being used at 1500 schools nationwide.

House GOP is moving swiftly toward Mayorkas' impeachment as Senate focuses on a border security deal - By Lisa Mascaro, AP Congressional Correspondent

Laying the groundwork for the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a House committee on Thursday heard from parents whose tearful testimony sought to link government border policy to their daughters' deaths and from a law professor warning off the effort.

Committee Chairman Mark Green is heading toward a vote on Mayorkas' impeachment by the end of the month, setting up action by the full House as soon as February — which would be a first for a Cabinet official in nearly 150 years.

Green, a Tennessee Republican, opened the second impeachment hearing saying "no American is safe" under Mayorkas' handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, with a record number of illegal crossings. He argued that the secretary's "egregious misconduct and failure to fulfill his oath of office" are grounds for impeachment.

But the panel's top Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who has repeatedly insisted policy differences with President Joe Biden are not grounds for impeachment, was backed up by one of the witnesses, Princeton University law professor Deborah Pearlstein.

"Policy differences, no matter how profound, is exactly not what impeachment is for," Pearlstein said.

She argued that no branch of the U.S. government has more power than the Congress to set policy and that, with years of inaction on border legislation, those powers have "gone unused."

House Republicans have been eager to impeach Mayorkas since seizing majority control last year, particularly as their efforts to impeach Biden over the business dealings of his son Hunter Biden have come to a standstill.

Accelerating the action in the new year comes as the focus on border security is driving the discussion on the campaign trail. Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has vowed to launch the "largest deportation operation" in U.S. history if he returns to the White House.

Biden told congressional leaders this week during a meeting at the White House he wanted a "big border security" bill as he tries to drive Congress to wrap up work on his $110 billion national security package for Ukraine, Israel and other needs, including the U.S.-Mexico border.

The leaders, including Speaker Mike Johnson, emerged cautiously optimistic, as Senate leaders eye a potential vote on that package next week.

But hours after the White House meeting, Trump signaled his skepticism toward any border deal, "unless we get everything" to shut down the migrants crossings, he wrote on social media.

Mayorkas has been deeply involved in Senate negotiations over the border security package, which would potentially restrict entry into the U.S. and more rapidly deport those people in the country without legal documentation. He has yet to appear before the committee for the impeachment proceedings.

Frustrated that Mayorkas would not appear Thursday, Green said the secretary is "stonewalling" the panel.

But the Department of Homeland Security said Mayorkas told the committee he was unavailable Thursday but would be willing to appear on other dates. The department noted he has appeared before Congress more than any other Biden administration Cabinet member — including 27 times in 35 months.

"This is just the latest example of Committee Republicans' sham process," department spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg said. "It's abundantly clear that they are not interested in hearing from Secretary Mayorkas since it doesn't fit into their bad-faith, predetermined and unconstitutional rush to impeach him."

One of the witnesses, Josephine Dunn, testified that her daughter, Ashley, died of a fentanyl overdose and said that she traveled from Arizona to appear at the hearing for the opportunity to question Mayorkas.

"Mr. Mayorkas is partly responsible for my daughter's death," she said, calling fentanyl a "weapon of mass destruction." "Whatever he's doing I hope is more important than that."

Another parent, Tammy Nobles, had previously testified before Congress.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, shared his own family's experiences with the friends' lives lost to drugs and said he would bring the mothers' stories to his next meetings with officials from the U.S. and Mexico.

"This is the personal side of the chaos," he said. "It has to stop."

Several Democrats spoke of their own concerns with the situation at the southern border, particularly as drug cartels push the flow of fentanyl, even as they stopped short of blaming Mayorkas for the magnitude of the problem.

"Let's get it together," Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., implored his colleagues, pointing to the federal funding battles coming this spring. "Surge resources to the border."

Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill., spoke of the pain of migrants fleeing their home countries and urged Republicans to come to the table with solutions. "Work with us to pass legislation," she said.

Impeaching a Cabinet secretary has happened only once before in the nation's history, when the House impeached Defense Secretary William Belknap in 1876 over kickbacks in government contracts.

It's unclear if Republicans, with only a very narrow majority in the House, will push ahead with impeachment if they don't have enough support from their ranks. So far, a handful of Republicans have expressed reservations, but some who initially voted to shelve the issue have indicated they are more willing to proceed.

If Mayorkas were to be impeached, the charges would next go to trial in the Senate, where it takes a super-majority to convict. In the Belknap impeachment, he was acquitted.