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WED: Civil suit settled in shooting at protest of statue, Arrests made in META predator case + More

Organizers and supporters on Sept. 28, 2023, celebrate Rio Arriba County’s postponement of putting back a statue of the war criminal and Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate that officials removed in 2020. Jacob Johns (Hopi, Akimel O'odham). the environmental activist who was later shot, stands in the middle.
Anna Padilla
Source NM
Organizers and supporters on Sept. 28, 2023, celebrate Rio Arriba County’s postponement of putting back a statue of the war criminal and Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate that officials removed in 2020. Jacob Johns (Hopi, Akimel O'odham). the environmental activist who was later shot, stands in the middle.

Civil suit settled in shooting of Native American activist at protest of Spanish conquistador statue - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit seeking damages from three relatives in the shooting of a Native American activist in northern New Mexico amid confrontations about a statue of a Spanish conquistador and aborted plans to reinstall it in public, according to court documents published Tuesday.

The shooting, in September 2023, severely wounded Jacob Johns, of Spokane, Washington, a well-traveled activist for environmental causes and an advocate for Native American rights who is of Hopi and Akimel O'odham tribal descent. His attorney, John Day, confirmed the settlement and said the terms were confidential.

A single gunshot set off chaos at an outdoor gathering in Española over canceled plans to install a bronze likeness of conquistador Juan de Oñate, who is both revered and reviled for his role in establishing early settlements along the Upper Rio Grande starting in 1598.

In January Johns filed a lawsuit asking for damages from 23-year-old Ryan Martinez of Sandia Park, who is being held without bail on charges of attempted murder as well as assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly pointing a gun at a woman at the protest. The civil suit also accused Martinez's parents of negligence and callous indifference for ignoring their live-at-home son's "dangerous and exceptionally disturbing behavior" with guns.

An attorney for the Martinez family did not immediately respond to messages.

The family has denied it was at fault or liable, while Martinez has pleaded not guilty in state court to criminal charges as prosecutors seek sentence enhancements by attempting to prove that the shooting was motivated by bias against a particular social group.

An array of Native American leaders in New Mexico and beyond have condemned the shooting on public property where advocates for Native American rights had gathered to celebrate with song, prayer and speeches about the county's decision not to install the statue that day.

A defense attorney has said Martinez feared for his life after being shoved to the ground as he pulled out a permitted concealed handgun. But a judge found sufficient cause for trial after reviewing surveillance and cellphone video of the confrontation and noting that Martinez arrived with loaded guns and should have known he was provoking a crowd with contrary views.

Martinez is scheduled for trial in July, with Johns listed among dozens of potential witnesses by prosecutors. District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is directly prosecuting the case as she competes against Democratic challenger Marco Serna in a June 4 primary election, with no general election challengers.

Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he is also reviled for his brutality.

To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right foot cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors after his soldiers stormed the Acoma Pueblo's mesa-top "sky city." That attack was precipitated by the killing of Oñate's nephew.

Undercover operation nets arrests as New Mexico's top prosecutor blames Meta for online predators Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutor announced charges Wednesday against three men who are accused of using Meta's social media platforms to target and solicit sex with underage children.

The arrests are the result of a monthslong undercover operation in which the suspects connected with decoy accounts that were set up by the state Department of Justice. The investigation began in December around the time the state filed a civil lawsuit against the social media giant, claiming Meta was failing to take basic precautionary measures to ensure children were safe on its platforms.

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said during a news conference Wednesday that the suspects communicated and exchanged explicit sexual content through Facebook's messenger app and were clear in expressing a sexual interest in children.

"It's extraordinarily concerning to us just how easily these individuals found the undercover personas that were created," Torrez said. "And it is, frankly, I think a wakeup call for all of us to understand just how serious these kinds of threats are."

He placed blame on Meta executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and suggested that the company was putting profits above the interests of parents and children.

"For those of us who are engaged in this work, we are simply tired of the rhetoric," he said. "We are tired of the assurances that have been given to members of our communities, to members of Congress, to policymakers that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that this type of behavior doesn't occur."

Meta disputed the allegations and reiterated Wednesday that it uses technology to prevent suspicious adults from finding or interacting with children and teens on its apps and that it works with law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting offenders.

The company also said it has hired child safety experts, reports content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and shares information and tools with others to help root out predators.

"This is an ongoing fight, where determined criminals evolve their tactics across platforms to try and evade protections," Meta said in an emailed statement.

While the state attorney general's office will continue working to identify predators who are targeting children, Torrez said it's too early to say whether that work will have a bearing on the civil litigation.

As part of that lawsuit, New Mexico prosecutors say they have uncovered internal documents in which Meta employees estimate about 100,000 children every day are subjected to sexual harassment on the company's platforms.

The three defendants in the criminal case were identified as Fernando Clyde, Marlon Kellywood and Christopher Reynolds. Prosecutors are seeking to detain them pending trial on charges that include child solicitation by an electronic communication device.

Hearings have yet to be scheduled, and court records did not list attorneys who could speak on behalf of Clyde and Kellywood. A message was left with the public defender's office, which is representing Reynolds.



Council approves RFP for new recycling provider; other bidders feel left on the curb KUNM News, The Albuquerque Journal


Glass recycling pick-up directly from homes might be coming to Albuquerque after the city council approved a bid on Monday in an 8 to 1 vote.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Texas based WM, formerly Waste Management, answered the city’s request for proposals for a new recycling facility.

The bid does include glass processing, but a spokesperson for WM said it’s “still too early to tell” if that would also include curbside pickup.

The details surrounding curbside glass pick-up will have to be determined by the city, according to the council.

Both the final location and the final amount of the contract are yet to be determined as part of final negotiations, but the WM spokesperson said the proposed facility would be able to expand as the city does, and would include “cutting edge technology.”

Lujan Grisham and other Western governors call on Congress to expand compensation for downwinders KUNM News, Source New Mexico

A letter signed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is garnering more support from several other Western governors calling on Congress to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, which would widen eligibility for people poisoned by radiation from Cold War era nuclear weapons testing and manufacturing, known as downwinders.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday joined the call penned by the Western Governor’s Association to leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 1. Lujan Grisham is the vice char of the association.

Cox’s support comes as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are considering two RECA bills.

One proposal would extend the deadline for compensation, which is set to expire this June, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee in the Senate and Rep. Celeste Maloy in the House, both Republicans from Utah.

The other, sponsored by Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, would increase compensation, expand eligibility for certain uranium workers, and widen the current definition of an “affected area” to include all of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Guam.

It would also include parts of Hawley’s district near St. Louis, where creek water was contaminated by radiation during nuclear weapons development.

As of Tuesday evening, Congress has 14 days to pass an expansion or extension before compensation expires on June 10.

Cox told Utah News Dispatch in a statement that he wants to see the program expanded.

“We support efforts to expand compensation for those affected by the nuclear testing that occurred throughout the West,” Cox said in the statement. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The statement comes on the heels of a similar push from Western governors urging members of Congress to support Hawley’s bill. On May 1, Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, chair of the Western Governors Association, and Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, vice chair of the organization, sent letters to several lawmakers asking them to schedule a vote.

“The bill acknowledges that nuclear weapons production and testing has had much broader effects than currently recognized by statute, and Western Governors encourage you to expeditiously schedule the legislation for consideration by the full House,” reads a letter sent to House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat.

RECA was enacted in 1990 — to be eligible for compensation under the act, Utahns had to prove they contracted certain types of cancer and lived in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Washington or Wayne counties for two consecutive years from 1951 to 1958, or during the summer of 1962.

People who worked in uranium mines, mills or transporting ore in Utah from 1942 to 1971 were also eligible.

Downwinders could receive $50,000, with uranium workers getting $100,000.

Lee and Maloy’s bill would extend the same program that’s been in place since 1990. But activists have long claimed the program was too narrow, pointing to ample evidence that all of Utah and other states in the West were downwind from nuclear weapons testing.

RECA also excludes people who had kidney cancer, certain kinds of leukemia, autoimmune disorders or other diseases that are linked to radiation. And Utahns who worked but didn’t reside in eligible counties or lived just across an eligible county line cannot receive compensation.

Hawley’s bill, which passed the Senate in March after a bipartisan 69-30 vote, would increase some payouts up to $150,000 while covering people who worked in uranium mines and mills up until 1990, extending the current timeframe by nearly 20 years. Uranium core drillers and remediation workers would also be eligible.

Hawley has said he hopes the expansion will be added to a bill expanding child tax credits.

Top water official in New Mexico to retire as state awaits decision in Rio Grande case — Associated Press

New Mexico's top water official will be stepping down next month, wrapping up a four-decade career that has included work on water projects from New Mexico and Colorado to Texas.

Mike Hamman has served as the state engineer for the past two years and previously led an irrigation district that spans thousands of acres (hectares) in New Mexico's most populated area. He also worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, managing federal water projects from the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado to Fort Quitman in Texas.

Hamman most recently was among those involved in negotiations that led to a three-state consent decree aimed at settling a long-running dispute with Texas over management of the Rio Grande. That case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hamman said in a statement issued Wednesday that he will continue to support efforts to improve New Mexico's water security while giving more attention to his family's small farm in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

"Collaboration with all our communities have been the key in finding lasting solutions as we prepared for a more arid future," he said, speaking of the work he has done throughout his career.

Hamman's last day will be June 30. It will be up to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to choose his successor. It wasn't immediately clear if she planned to conduct a national search or choose a candidate from the many water experts in New Mexico.

The state engineer is charged with administering New Mexico's water resources and has authority over the measurement and distribution of all surface and groundwater — a task that has become increasingly challenging as the arid state grapples with ongoing drought and the effects of climate change.

New Mexico earlier this year rolled out its latest water plan, which expanded on recommendations developed by a water policy task force that Hamman chaired in 2022. The water plan noted that some systems in New Mexico are losing anywhere from 40% to 70% of all treated drinking water because of breaks and leaks in old infrastructure.

City Councilors seek to reverse immigrant-friendly policy - Bethany Raja, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

Albuquerque city councilors Brook Bassan and Renée Grout are co-sponsoring a bill that would reverse the city’s Immigrant Friendly Policy – allowing police to contact federal authorities if an undocumented immigrant is charged with certain violent crimes or drug offenses.

The bill to amend the current policy, introduced at the Albuquerque City Council meeting Monday night, was the subject of a robust public comment period. The current policy states, among other things, that police can’t ask for proof of someone’s immigration status unless it is important to their investigation.

One speaker said the amendment isn’t fair to families because when they need to call the police or fire department to ask for help, they don’t feel safe.

“We want to live in a state where there’s security and families feel safe and families will not be separated,” she said. “We don’t feel safe in situations where they become victims. This amendment will enable police to abuse power and turn people over to ICE regardless if charges against them have been substantiated.”

The amendment, she said, is based on racial profiling, and the presumption of innocence is not granted to all New Mexicans equally.

“It creates a two-tier criminal justice system,” she said. “It’s not guilt or innocence or whether or not we have an accent. We have a right to live with the presumption of innocence granted for New Mexicans and not only for some New Mexicans.”

City Desk ABQ asked the Albuquerque Police Department how it would enforce the legislation if it passes.

APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said APD doesn’t typically respond to hypothetical situations.

“If the city’s ordinance changes, we will evaluate how it will be enforced,” he said.

Mayor Tim Keller responded in an emailed statement that the city wants criminals behind bars, and not set free from the criminal justice system.

“Deportation actually eliminates the possibility of victims and their families getting justice,” he said. “We need victims and their families to be able to trust our officers and feel safe engaging law enforcement to protect them without fear of deportation.”

The bill was referred to the Finance and Government Operations Committee and will be heard at the next regular city council meeting.


The current immigrant friendly ordinance was amended in 2017 by councilors Klarissa Peña, Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, and Diane Gibson. It states that no city resources will be used to identify someone’s immigration status and that a person won’t be questioned or detained because they’re suspected of being undocumented.

Bassan told City Desk ABQ the current policy has gone to the opposite extreme of what it was originally intended to do.

“That extreme is causing people to come here illegally from other countries and committing crime and that’s where I think we should draw the line,” she said. “If somebody is charged with committing a violent felony, human trafficking, or trafficking of controlled substances, we should work with federal immigration authorities to find out if somebody is here legally or illegally.”

Bassan said if the person charged is found to be here illegally, federal authorities should be able to take over the case and it should go through the judicial process.

But not everyone believes this is sound policy. Andres Esquivel, campaign manager for the immigration reform advocacy organization New Mexico Dream Team, said they don’t feel good about this legislation.

“I feel like it’s definitely backtracking on a lot of the progress that we’ve made as a city to ensure that this is a safe city for all,” they said.

Esquivel said this policy lines up with an incorrect narrative that immigrants commit crimes.

“Usually when we look at statistics and things like that, immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes. As we move in from another country, we don’t want to get in trouble,” they said.

According to a study by Northwestern University that analyzed 150 years of U.S. Census data,immigrants were consistently less likely to be incarcerated than people born in the United States.

If passed, Esquivel said this amendment would bring fear to Albuquerque’s undocumented immigrant communities.

“They’re going to be taking people’s information and sending it over to ICE. Regardless of what it’s about,” they said. “It’s still a risk, especially since this amendment only talks about charges and not convictions.”


Bassan said she’s been working behind the scenes with different organizations to craft the legislation so that it’s not an extreme change to the current policy.

The amendment, she said, is not trying to cause bigger problems for people who are truly coming here to get away from a dangerous or unsafe environment.

“This is supposed to be targeting the bad of the bad and the worst of the worst who are coming here and victimizing — whether they’re immigrants who are here illegally or are citizens in the community,” she said.

The amendment, Bassan said, makes a statement that the city isn’t going to allow violent criminals, people who are victimizing and selling human beings or trying to deal 100,000 fentanyl tablets on the street, into our community.

She said only a sergeant or above would be able to contact federal authorities and there’d be data collection to make sure a certain part of Albuquerque or a certain officer isn’t making all of the reports.

“We can make sure to have some guardrails to minimize and ideally eliminate the potential for abuse from the system,” she said.

However, Esquivel said the immigrant community doesn’t want to be pawns in a political game during an election year.

“There’s a lot of rampant xenophobia towards immigrants,” they said. “Just genuinely do not pass this amendment. Keep our sanctuary city status as is.”

New Mexico high court upholds man's 3 murder convictions in 2018 shooting deaths near Dixon - Associated Press

New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld a man's murder convictions in the 2018 shooting deaths of three people near the community of Dixon.

In a unanimous decision, the state's high court concluded Monday that there was sufficient evidence to support John Powell's convictions of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated burglary in 2020.

The bodies of April Browne, 42; Abraham Martinez, 36; and Kierin Guillemin, 27, were found in a Rio Arriba County home a few miles from Dixon.

Authorities said a surveillance camera recorded the killings and theft of a safe and other items from Browne's home by Powell and his brother, Roger Gage.

Gage was convicted separately in the case and sentenced to life in prison.

Last year, the state Supreme Court affirmed Gage's convictions of three counts of first-degree willful and deliberate murder.

Authorities said Powell and his brother drove for more than an hour to reach Browne's house purportedly to get tools and buy drugs.

Chief Justice David K. Thomson wrote in the high court's nonprecedential decision that "the entire assault, including removing the safe and laptops, lasted only 52 seconds.

"A juror could reasonably determine that the precisely choreographed actions in the video demonstrate the type of careful thought sufficient for deliberation," Thomson wrote.

Heinrich celebrates protections of sacred lands in Sandoval County - Hannah Grover,New Mexico Political Report

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat representing New Mexico, joined Placitas-area residents in celebrating the withdrawal of more than 4,000 acres of land from mineral leasing, including gravel mining.

The Secretary of the Interior officially withdrew the area, which includes the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma, in mid-April following decades of advocacy work.

The mineral withdrawal protects four tracts of land and isn’t quite contiguous.

Heinrich’s involvement in the effort began in 2009 after he first took federal office. He said protecting Buffalo Tract was among the top issues that Placitas residents asked him to address. At the same time, he acknowledged that the work isn’t done yet. The mineral withdrawal only lasts for 50 years.

Heinrich expressed renewed commitment to passing legislation that would permanently protect the area from future gravel mining or other mineral development.

That protection is important because the area represents one of the few wildlife migration corridors connecting the Sandia Mountains to the Jemez Mountains and is also a sacred site for several Pueblos.

Both Heinrich and U.S. Bureau of Land Management State Director Melanie Barnes noted how much support the community has for protecting the Buffalo Tract and Crest of Montezuma.

“Often it’s difficult to make everyone happy, really difficult,” Barnes said. “So this is one of the few times that I’ve seen almost unanimous support.”

Heinrich said the mineral withdrawal is a reminder of the “timescale that meaningful change happens at” and said that type of change never happens as fast as people would like.

He said the entire community came together to seek protections for Buffalo Tract, especially when there was a “real credible threat” that an industrial scale gravel mine could open on the Buffalo Tract.

“It was impressive to me. I’ve never seen such a diverse community unite so quickly,” he said.

That group included members of the land grant and the Pueblos as well as residents and business owners in Placitas.

Heinrich said the withdrawal may make it easier for him and other members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation to push through legislation making the protections permanent.

“We will turn this reprieve into permanent law,” he said.

New Mexico Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, represents the Placitas area which became part of his district following the redistricting process. He noted that he has not been involved in the efforts to protect the Buffalo Tract area for long.

“I’ve only represented Placitas for about a year and a half,” he said, adding that in his very first meeting with constituents from the Placitas area, they brought up the Buffalo Tract as one of their priorities.

McQueen has a background in conservation and said he knows how hard it can be to bring protections like mineral withdrawal to an area.

“When they get across the finish line it’s usually because of a group of dedicated individuals and pressure over time, and not giving up and not taking no for an answer,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pueblo of San Felipe Gov. Anthony Ortiz praised the protections that Buffalo Tract received and asked Heinrich to help with efforts to protect other sacred lands in Sandoval County, particularly the Ball Ranch Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Ortiz noted that a lot of cultural objects have been removed from sacred lands including in the Buffalo Tract area and the Ball Ranch ACEC.

“It really means a lot for us as Native people to protect those areas because whatever is on the ground of our native lands, that is very meaningful to us,” he said.