5 Suspects At Compound Face Terror Charges, N.M. Congress Delegation Wants 'Space Agency' In State

Mar 21, 2019

5 Suspects At New Mexico Compound Face Terror Charges - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

Five former residents of a New Mexico compound where authorities found the remains of a 3-year-old boy are due in federal court on terrorism-related charges.

The charges include conspiring to attack law enforcement and military members.

The two men and three women living at the compound raided in August are being arraigned Thursday on new federal charges of supporting plans for violent attacks. The charges were included in a superseding indictment last week. The group has been in federal custody since August on firearms charges.

Four members of the group also are charged in the kidnapping of the boy who died at the compound. He had suffered from medical disabilities that authorities say went untreated.

Defense attorneys say the five will plead not guilty to charges.

New Mexico Congress Delegation Wants 'Space Agency' In State - Associated Press

New Mexico's congressional delegation wants the federal government to set up the planned new space agency in the Land of Enchantment.

All five members of the New Mexico delegation recently wrote a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to argue the new Space Development Agency should be established in the state.

The delegation cited White Sands Missile Range, Spaceport America and the national laboratories as reasons for New Mexico as a good home.

The U.S. Department of Defense is establishing a Space Development Agency that would oversee the military's space research, development and acquisition efforts.

It would eventually fold into the so-called Space Force — a new, separate branch of the armed forces.

Taos County Replaces Resolution Against Gun-control Measures - Associated Press

A New Mexico county has revoked a resolution protesting state gun-control reforms and replaced it with one saying officials have a responsibility to protect citizens' constitutional rights while also protecting them from gun violence.

The change in Taos County's stance came during a commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Its previous resolution on firearms had expressed support for the sheriffs in their decision not to enforce gun laws they determine to be unconstitutional. More than two dozen New Mexico counties have passed similar "Second Amendment Sanctuary County" resolutions in protest of gun-control legislation this year.

The first of the state bills signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will expand requirements for mandatory background checks on firearms sales to include private person-to-person sales.

Agent: Guard, Friend Accused In Hispanic Culture Center Fire – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

State officials say a fire causing hundreds of dollars in damage at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque was sparked by "simulated doobies" that one agent described as weeds rolled in paper.

Mark Torres, the special agent in charge of the Office of Superintendent of Insurance said Wednesday that 26-year-old Matthew Luxon, a security guard supervisor at the center, and his friend 29-year-old Lyle Thompson have been charged with negligent arson and conspiracy in the March 9 fire. Online court records did not immediately list attorneys for them.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the men are accused of firing an on-duty weapon off a balcony, and setting the fire in a mechanical room after time drinking downtown. The blaze resulted in indoor sprinklers running for hours.

There were no reported injuries.

University Of New Mexico Moves To Dismiss Union Formation - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

University of New Mexico officials have moved to dismiss an effort to form a faculty union, arguing its scope and inclusion present significant issues.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the university filed its first response Monday on the faculty effort to the university's Labor Management Relations Board.

Chief Legal Counsel Loretta Martinez writes in the filing that the union proposal has conflicts of interest and includes some positions excluded from bargaining units under state laws.

The proposed United Academics of the University of New Mexico seeks to represent more than 1,600 faculty members at the university's campuses across the state.

The faculty union's attorney, Shane Youtz, says the makeup of the proposed union is similar to other university unions across the country.

The newspaper could not reach university officials Tuesday.

State Police Officer Arrested By Chaves County Authorities - Associated Press

Authorities say a New Mexico State Police officer has been arrested for allegedly violating various state laws.

The Chaves County Sheriff's Department opened a criminal investigation into 24-year-old Ricky Romero early this month.

Sheriff's officials didn't disclose Wednesday what state laws Romero is accused of violating.

It's unclear if Romero has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

State Police say the department has fully cooperated with the Chaves County investigation and will continue to do so.

Police launched their own internal affairs investigation and say Romero was placed on administrative leave.

In addition to the criminal charges, authorities say Romero is facing discipline up to being fired.

Romero has been employed with State Police since May 2017 and been stationed in Roswell.

Ex-Sandia Labs Employee Is Accused Of Misusing Credit Cards - Associated Press

An Albuquerque man who's a former Sandia National Laboratories employee has been arraigned on charges of theft and conversion of federal funds.

Prosecutors say 37-year-old Joshua Cordova appeared in federal court Tuesday.

Cordova previously trained military, law enforcement and emergency response personnel in the use of equipment developed by Sandia Labs.

Authorities say Cordova had government-funded credit cards to purchase needed equipment and supplies.

An indictment alleges Cordova used the credit cards to purchase thousands of dollars in merchandise for himself including expensive jewelry, clothing, sports equipment, electronics and appliances.

Prosecutors say Cordova is out of custody pending trial and he faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Energy Secretary May Speed Plutonium Removal From NevadaAssociated Press

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto says Energy Secretary Rick Perry has committed to expediting the removal of weapons-grade plutonium it secretly shipped to a site in Nevada last year if she agrees to stop blocking appointments to vacant positions in his department.

But it's not clear how soon that could happen or where the material that's currently scheduled to be moved to New Mexico by 2026-27 would go in the meantime.

Cortez Masto told reporters in Carson City Wednesday night that Perry phoned her last week to discuss the matter. The Nevada Democrat says they talked about removing the radioactive material from a site north of Las Vegas over the next three to five years. But she says she wants a commitment to that effect in writing.

The Energy Department didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Tribes Push To Protect Sacred New Mexico Site From DrillingAssociated Press

Native American leaders are banding together to pressure U.S. officials to ban oil and gas exploration around a sacred tribal site that features massive stone structures and other remnants of an ancient civilization.

Creating a formal buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park has been a long-running issue.

But tribes face the Trump administration's pro-drilling stance as they push for further protections surrounding the world heritage site. They're meeting Thursday at Acoma Pueblo, a Native American community in New Mexico.

Federal officials are revamping the management plan for the area around Chaco. They repeatedly have denied drilling leases within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the park.

Tribes, environmentalists and archaeologists have raised concerns about the potential effects on culturally significant sites like ceremonial structures called kivas outside the park's boundaries.

Interior Boss Order Aims To Protect US Public Land Access Associated Press

Acting U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is ordering federal land managers to give more consideration to public access concerns when selling or trading public land.

Thursday's secretarial order comes amid longstanding complaints that millions of acres of state and federal land in the American West can be reached only by traveling across private property or small slivers of public land.

The order requires the Bureau of Land Management to identify alternatives to access that would be lost during land sales or exchanges.

The order could help boost Bernhardt's credentials among conservation groups ahead of a Senate confirmation hearing next week in which Democrats are likely to highlight his past work as an energy industry lobbyist.

Bernhardt has been nominated to replace former Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in January.

Elections Regulator Nixes Referendum On Gun Control LawAssociated Press

A Republican-led attempt to hold a statewide referendum by signature petition on a newly signed gun control law has been turned away by the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Thursday said the proposed petition did not satisfy legal requirements.

In a letter to Republican House minority leader James Townsend of Artesia, she says the new state law to expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales is a matter of public safety and cannot be overturned by referendum under state law.

The law to expand background checks against a federal database of prohibited buyers has generated a backlash from county sheriffs and others who say it will be difficult to enforce and do little to address gun violence.

AP: No Clear Partisan Slant In New Mexico House DistrictsAssociated Press

An Associated Press analysis shows that Democrats in the New Mexico House picked up even more seats in last year's election than would be expected based on their share of the vote.

The 21 percent increase in Democrats' seats helped them build a supermajority in the state House in what was considered a good year nationally for Democrats.

The Associated Press examined 4,900 state House and Assembly seats using a statistical method of calculating partisan advantage and detecting potential partisan gerrymandering. Although New Mexico Democrats enjoyed an advantage in 2018 under a court-brokered plan, the same districts had produced a slight Republican edge in the 2016 elections.

Back-and-forth election gains along with AP calculations of the efficiency gap suggest New Mexico's districts ultimately do not have a significant partisan slant.

8-Year-Old Girl Injured In Albuquerque ShootingAssociated Press

Albuquerque police are investigating two shootings, including one that left an 8-year-old girl injured.

Police say a bullet came through a window of a home during a shooting Wednesday night, ricocheted off of several items before hitting the girl.

The girl suffered a small abrasion. Authorities say it is not life-threatening. It remains unknown where the bullet came from.

Police say another shooting involved a man who was intoxicated and playing with a gun. The gun went off, hitting and killing the man.

2 New Mexico Inmates Face Charges From Escape AttemptAssociated Press

Two inmates who authorities allege tried to escape from a southeastern New Mexico jail this month face kidnapping and conspiracy charges.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Gabriel Rodriguez and Justin Hobbs were recently charged following their alleged March 6 escape attempt from the Lea County Detention Center.

According to Lovington police, the 28-year-old Rodriguez and the 23-year-old Hobbs attacked a corrections officer during their escape attempt. Police say the pair briefly overpowered the guard, then beat and restrained him.

The inmates were later taken into custody in the jail.

Records indicate both prisoners have lengthy criminal histories and are facing multi-year sentences in relation to other cases.

It was not known if the inmates had attorneys in their new cases.