Dad And Partner Plead Not Guilty In Compound Death, Hispanic/Native American 'Peace Plan' Announced

Aug 29, 2018

Dad, Partner Plead Not Guilty In Compound Death- Associated Press

The father of a child found dead in a northern New Mexico compound earlier this month has pleaded not guilty to new charges of child abuse resulting in death.

The dead boy's father, Siraj Wahhaj and his partner Jany Leveille, who also is charged with the same crime, remained silent in court as the new charges were read.

The pleas followed a decision by a judge to dismiss initial child neglect charges against them and three other defendants. 

Judge Emilio Chavez ruled Wednesday that he had no discretion to keep the three other defendants in custody since prosecutors missed a 10-day limit for an evidentiary hearing to establish probable cause for the neglect charges.

ACLU Challenging Panhandling Laws Across New Mexico- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has sent letters to 10 governments around New Mexico asking them to repeal their ordinances on panhandling.

The letters are part of a coordinated effort by the National Center on Homelessness and Poverty that is targeting 240 ordinances across 12 states.

Santa Fe's ordinance prohibits people from begging from people who are eating at a sidewalk cafe. In Española, multiple people can't beg together.

Maria Martinez Sanchez, a staff attorney with the ACLU, says in Artesia, panhandlers need a permit approved by a city or police official before they can beg for money.

The Albuquerque Journal reports mayors for the three cities did not return calls for comment.

The ACLU said Tuesday that it also sent a letter to Los Alamos.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Swindler's Sentence Too Lenient- Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A federal appeals court says a judge was too easy when sentencing a former Santa Fe investment adviser for defrauding clients out of more than $1 million.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Matthew Sample's sentence, saying he incorrectly got probation instead of prison time because he earned a lot of money.

Judge Carlos Lucero wrote that our system of justice has “no sentencing discount for wealth."

Sample was originally sentenced to five years of probation in 2017 after he pleaded guilty to one count of "fraud and swindles" and one count of wire fraud.

Judge Lucero also wrote that a federal sentencing commission found those crimes deserve approximately seven years in federal prison.

New Mexico Judges Weigh Dangerousness Of Compound DefendantsAssociated Press

New Mexico judges are scheduled to make crucial decisions about child abuse charges and bail provisions for five defendants arrested at a compound in northern New Mexico where 11 children were found living in filth and the body of a 3-year-old boy was retrieved.

In hearings scheduled for Wednesday, a couple is confronting new charges of child abuse that could carry life sentences in connection with the death of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj.

The body of the severely disabled boy was found this month within a tunnel, and prosecutors accuse father Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and his partner Jany Leveille of denying the boy proper medical care.

A judge is weighing whether any of the five defendants can be released pending trial. Defendants are seeking the dismissal of neglect charges.

Lawsuit Likely Over Straight-Ticket Option- Associated Press

The Republican Party of New Mexico is planning to take legal action after the state's top elections official reinstated the option of straight ticket voting in which a voter can choose candidates from the same party all at once.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, says the option will make voting easier.

But Republicans describe the move as a partisan maneuver.

State GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi says the change will benefit Toulouse Oliver's own re-election bid and he questioned the hasty effort to bring it back with the 2018 general election fast approaching.

Cangiolosi also questioned Toulouse Oliver's ability to referee New Mexico's elections while also being a candidate, suggesting that it undermines any confidence New Mexico voters can have in the fairness of the election.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico supported the return of straight ticket voting.

New Mexico Investment Panel Approves Pay-To-Play Settlements- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's State Investment Council has approved two settlements that will allow the state to recover another $850,000 dollars in connection with politically influenced investment deals brokered during the administration of former Gov. Bill Richardson.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that will bump the total amount recouped by the state to more than $41 million dollars. The council has entered more than a dozen settlements with financial firms and investment consultants as part of its legal effort.

Under the latest agreements, the council agreed to drop legal claims against two outside firms.

The settlements hinge on payments made more than a decade ago to Marc Correra, a politically connected placement agent. One firm, HM Capital, was a Dallas-based investment manager that got a $30 million dollar investment deal with the state. The other, Cabrera Capital Markets, worked with Correra.

Hispanic, Native American Santa Fe 'Peace Plan' Announced- Associated Press

Hispanic and Native American leaders, whose dispute over an annual reenactment of a 17th-century Spanish conquistador reclaiming Santa Fe that has been compared to the debate over Confederate monuments, have announced new plans for "reconciliation."

The All Pueblo Council of Governors, Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and Los Caballeros De Vargas announced Wednesday a new list of events that seek to ease centuries-old tensions around the myth of Santa Fe being reclaimed by Spanish settlers from Native Americans.

Organizers of the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe recently agreed to discontinue the event known as the Entrada.

Instead, Santa Fe will play host to a month-long celebration that will kick off with a Pregón de la Fiesta Catholic Mass and Po'Pay's Pueblo Dancers on September 7 and end with Indigenous Peoples Day on October 8.

Navajo VP, Ex-President Top Finishers In PrimaryAssociated Press

Voters on the country's largest American Indian reservation have advanced two seasoned politicians vying for the presidency to the general election.

Current Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez and former tribal President Joe Shirley Jr. are the top two finishers in Tuesday's primary election. They will face off in the November general election.

Unofficial results from all precincts show Nez led the field of 18 presidential hopefuls with more than 14,100 votes. Shirley followed with about half the number of votes. Tribal lawmaker Tom Chee came in third.

Both Nez and Shirley say they want to improve the economy on the vast reservation that stretches into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Nez has made health and the well-being of Navajos a focus of his campaign. Shirley says he'll rely on teamwork to combat poverty and other issues.

Airport Expansion Eyed For New Mexico's Booming Oil RegionHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Officials in southeastern New Mexico's booming oil and gas region want to expand their regional airport.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Lea County commissioners voted last week to seek a construction contractor to start expansion at the Lea County Regional Airport.

Officials say the current 4,800-square-foot facility contains a security section with no restrooms and an insufficient seating area for passengers.

Commissioners were told that the Federal Aviation Administration and the New Mexico Department of Transportation likely will cover the estimated $4.1 million, 7,800-square-foot expansion.

Other amenities to be provided or upgraded include an improved baggage claim area, the ticketing area, spaces for food vending and room for three rental car agencies.

Longtime Roswell Daily Record Owner Robert Beck, 97, DiesRoswell Daily Record, Associated Press

Robert Beck, the longtime Roswell Daily Record owner and former publisher of the New Mexico newspaper, has died.

The Roswell Daily Record announced that Beck died last week in San Diego. The cause of death was not given. He was 97.

A graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, Beck began working at the Roswell Daily Record as circulation manager in 1947 after serving as a pilot in World War II. He became publisher of the newspaper in 1955.

Beck would serve as publisher of the Roswell Daily Record for the next 32 years and was active in the community during his tenure, serving on the boards of a number of local institutions, including Eastern New Mexico University.

Nuclear Safety Oversight Board Takes Aim At New DOE PoliciesAssociated Press

An independent safety panel charged with providing oversight of some of the highest risk nuclear facilities operated by the U.S. government is concerned that new policies approved by the U.S. Energy Department could impede transparency and compromise public safety.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board peppered department officials with questions about their intentions during a public hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

More meetings are planned but department officials rebuffed suggestions by board members and watchdog groups to put the policies on hold.

Board member Joyce Connery said now isn't the time to roll back the board's access to information or its ability to conduct independent reviews as the U.S. nuclear complex grapples with infrastructure and workforce issues along with pressure to ramp up production of key components for the nuclear arsenal.

Key Hispanic New Mexico GOP Lawmaker To RetireAssociated Press

One of New Mexico's longest-serving Hispanic Republican state lawmakers has announced he is dropping his re-election bid and will retire.

Rep. Larry Larrañaga of Albuquerque said Tuesday he was withdrawing his name from this year's ballot after experiencing "new challenges."

A widely respected lawmaker on New Mexico budget issues, Larrañaga was first elected in 1994 as part of the GOP wave that won races across the country in reaction to then-President Bill Clinton.

Larrañaga was known for his focus on water issues and was a key proponent of developing a 40-year water plan for New Mexico.

Larrañaga worked as district engineer for the New Mexico Highway Department, eventually became department secretary from 1982 to 1988.

William 'Bill' Pratt, a Democrat, remains in the New Mexico House District 27 race.

Sen. Rand Paul Backs Libertarian Senate CandidateAssociated Press

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is endorsing Gary Johnson's Libertarian campaign for U.S. Senate in the state of New Mexico.

In a news release Tuesday, Paul shunned the Republican nominee and announced his support for Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico who ran for president as a Libertarian in 2012 and 2016.

Johnson and Paul share an enthusiasm for extremely limited government. Rand calls Johnson a true fiscal conservative and praises his leadership in opposing government overreach.

Johnson backers are pressuring Republican Mick Rich to drop out of the race against incumbent Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich of Albuquerque.

Rich is a commercial construction contractor and political newcomer. Tuesday is the final day for candidates in New Mexico to withdraw their names from the general election ballot.

Study Finds University Of New Mexico Adds $3B In Economic OutputAssociated Press

Research shows the University of New Mexico is responsible for nearly 25,000 jobs, $3.5 billion in annual employee compensation and another $3 billion in economic output.

A study released Tuesday looked at operations, student expenditures, alumni productivity and technology transfer during the past fiscal year. University officials say the study marked the first of its kind to quantify the economic contributions of the entire university system.

The system is made up of the Albuquerque main campus and  Health  Sciences  Center along with  branch  campuses  in  Taos,  Valencia  County,  Los  Alamos  and  Gallup.

The report was commissioned by STC.UNM, the university's technology-transfer and economic-development organization.

University President Garnett Stokes says learning and discovery missions that are central to universities like UNM are also interconnected to the mission of driving economic and social prosperity.

Governors Of Nevada, New Mexico, Kentucky Travel To JapanAssociated Press

The Republican governors of Nevada, New Mexico and Kentucky and Nebraska's GOP lieutenant governor are wrapping up a brief trip to Tokyo to meet with their Japanese counterparts.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley were participating in the trip ending Tuesday organized by the U.S. National Governor's Association and Japan National Governors' Association.

The delegation met with about half a dozen Japanese governors and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the trip, which lasted just over three days.

The visit included discussions about the role local governments can play in innovation and attracting business from overseas.

New Mexico Jewelry Store Owner Sentenced In Fraud CaseAssociated Press

A New Mexico jewelry store owner has been sentenced to six months in prison and a year of supervised release for selling counterfeit Native American jewelry.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico says Nael Ali was sentenced Tuesday and ordered to pay more than $9,000 in restitution for misrepresenting goods in violation of the Indian Arts and Craft Act.

Ali's conviction followed an earlier guilty plea by jewelry supplier Mohammad Manasra on less severe charges. Manasra was sentenced to two days in jail and a year of supervised release.

The convictions stem from an international investigation that federal authorities say laid bare the breadth and sophistication of distribution networks for fake Indian-style art and crafts.

In October 2015, federal agents raided Indian art galleries in Albuquerque, Gallup, and Calistoga, California, to seize counterfeits and evidence.