Forest Officials Must Consider Salamander Impacts, Judge Sentences Religious Sect Leader

Sep 27, 2018

Santa Fe Forest Ordered To Consider Impacts On SalamanderAssociated Press

A federal judge is ordering the Santa Fe National Forest to consider how the management of roads and trails across the northern New Mexico forest will affect an endangered salamander.

U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez in a ruling made public Wednesday upheld an earlier decision in which a magistrate judge rejected arguments from the U.S. Forest Service that it was not obligated to consider the effects of travel management on the Jemez Mountain salamander.

Environmentalists applauded the decision, saying the federal agency has the power to take action to protect the species.

The salamander breathes through its skin and spends much of its life underground. Environmentalists say the integrity of its underground habitat is vital to its survival and that the compaction of soil from vehicles is a concern.

Ruling Upholds Penalties For Failing To Produce RecordsAssociated Press

A court decision says New Mexico public agencies can be ordered to pay daily penalties of up to $100 for making incomplete or inadequate responses to request for public records.

The Court of Appeals' decision Monday overturns a District Court judge's ruling that an animal welfare activist who requested records wasn't entitled to damages after the Attorney General's Office initially failed to turn over hundreds of emails.

The Court of Appeals said the penalty is needed to provide an incentive for public bodies to properly respond to records requests.

The case now returns to District Court for further consideration.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said the agency was reviewing its options.

Ranchers, National Park Service Square Off Over Fencing - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Ranchers in northern New Mexico are squaring off with federal land managers over miles of unmended fencing along the boundary of Valles Caldera National Preserve.

They say park rangers last week rounded up cattle that had crossed the boundary without posting a notice of their intention to impound the animals. They say more than 300 cows and calves were corralled without hay and with little water for days until they could make the 300-mile roundtrip to trailer the livestock home.

The ranchers say the preserve has failed to maintain fencing to keep cattle out, but officials at Valles Caldera argue that New Mexico's fence-out laws are pre-empted by federal law and the responsibility belongs to the ranchers.

The dispute comes as the region grapples with drought, which has left pastures barren and watering holes dry.

Man's Trial Delayed In Case Stemming From Girl's DeathAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A man's scheduled trial on charges stemming from the 2016 killing of a 10-year-old girl at her family's Albuquerque apartment is being postponed because prosecutors are appealing a judge's ruling on evidence.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the trial of Fabian Gonzales was supposed to start in mid-October but has been put on hold indefinitely pending a Court of Appeals ruling on use of evidence on alleged drug use.

Gonzales faces charges of tampering with evidence and child abuse resulting in death.

In another recent development in the case stemming from the death of Victoria Martens, a judge earlier this month rejected a plea deal for a woman charged in the case.

Gonzales is a cousin of the woman, Jessica Kelley, and was dating the girl's mother.

Federal Judge Dismisses Navajo's Lawsuit Against Wells FargoAssociated Press

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged Wells Fargo engaged in predatory and unlawful banking practices with members of the Navajo Nation.

The tribe filed the lawsuit last December in federal court in New Mexico. It sought recovery of improper fees, service charges and penalties on unauthorized cards and accounts.

Wells Fargo asked a judge to dismiss the case. The company argued many claims had been addressed through a previous consumer protection action and the tribe lacked standing to file other claims.

The judge agreed and dismissed the case Tuesday.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says the tribe will consider appealing or refiling claims that were dismissed without prejudice.

Wells Fargo has five branches on the reservation that stretches into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, and 12 others within a 30-minute drive.

New Mexico Prosecutors Say Lawmaker Violated Ethics RulesAssociated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is accusing a state lawmaker of violating the Legislature's rules of conduct by apparently seeking special treatment when detained by police at a sobriety checkpoint.

The office of Attorney General Hector Balderas on Thursday said it is asking an ethics committee to review conduct by Republican Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque during her May arrest for drunken driving.

A judge this week found Youngblood guilty of aggravated drunken driving. Youngblood could not be reached immediately for comment.

In a letter, Assistant Attorney General Dylan Lange said that police lapel camera footage of the arrest showed a clear intent by Youngblood to user her position as a lawmaker to influence officers. At the checkpoint, Youngblood said she wrote bills to protect police.

Judge Sentences Leader Of New Mexico Religious Sect KRQE-TV, Associated Press

A leader of a New Mexico paramilitary religious sect has been sentenced to more than seven decades in prison after her conviction in a child sex abuse case.

KRQE-TV reports a judge handed down a 72-year sentence for Deborah Green on Wednesday in Grants, following emotional testimony from a victim in the case.

Prosecutors said the case against Green involved an infant who was taken from Uganda and mistreated throughout her life by the 71-year-old and members of an isolated Pentecostal sect.

Last year, authorities raided the sect's secluded Fence Lake compound in western New Mexico over concerns about child abuse.

On Tuesday, a jury found Green guilty of kidnapping, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and child abuse.

Her attorney said the case stemmed from former sect members' vendettas against Green.


Prosecutor Cancels Grand Jury In New Mexico Compound Case Associated Press

A district attorney is indefinitely postponing plans to seek grand jury indictments against five adults detained in August on suspicion of child neglect at a ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico.

Toas-area District Attorney Donald Gallegos said Wednesday that plans to convene a grand jury this week were canceled in deference to federal prosecutors who are pursuing firearms and conspiracy charges against the extended family. Gallegos says the federal case should go forward first.

Authorities found 11 children living in filth at the compound and later recovered the body of a severely disabled 3-year-old boy who they say was kidnapped by his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, in Georgia.

Charges of child abuse resulting in death were dropped against Wahhaj and wife Jany Leveille as federal authorities pursue separate charges.


New Mexico To Get $760K Under States' Settlement With UberAssociated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says the state will receive approximately $760,000 under a $148 million nationwide settlement between 50 states and Uber.

The settlement announced Wednesday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stems from the ride-hailing company's yearlong delay in reporting a data breach to its affected drivers about the theft of their personal information.

Uber learned in November 2016 that hackers had accessed personal data, including driver's license information, for roughly 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S. The company acknowledged the breach in November 2017, saying it paid $100,000 in ransom for the stolen information to be destroyed.

The states sued Uber, saying the company violated laws requiring it to promptly notify people affected by the breach.

New Mexico Denies Claims In Child Care Lawsuit Associated Press

Officials with New Mexico's child welfare agency are calling claims that it is illegally denying child care assistance to thousands of low-income families preposterous.

Single mothers and an advocacy group sued the Children, Youth and Families Department late Tuesday, saying the agency is using vague regulations to deny child care assistance to families.

Department spokesman Henry Varela said Wednesday that the agency has been working to expand the program for vulnerable populations and that monthly participation has increased by about 4,500 children over the last three years.

He says funding for the program has increased by more than 60 percent since 2015.

The agency also disputes claims that families are not informed of their right to appeal when assistance is denied, saying they can seek a hearing and review their case documents.

New Mexico Election Provides Stark Choice On Gun Issues By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Two candidates for governor of New Mexico are offering starkly different visions on issues of gun control and public safety in a state where the Democrat-led Legislature has been reticent to approve major restrictions on firearms.

Republican Steve Pearce says new gun restrictions wouldn't necessarily improve safety, while Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham wants a ban on assault weapons more background checks on sales. The election is thrusting New Mexico back into a proxy battle between national groups on gun issues.

An Associated Press review of all firearms-related legislation in all states this year shows largely predictable and partisan patterns, with the exception of Florida and Vermont.

New Mexico lawmakers increased the penalty for illegal gun possession by violent felons and set aside about $40 million for school safety improvements.

University: Former Obama Adviser To Address Women's Event – Associated Press

A former senior adviser for President Barack Obama is expected to speak at New Mexico State University next week.

The university says its Interdisciplinary Studies Department and Gender Studies Program has tapped Valerie Jarrett to present at the Women's Leadership Salon. The event is set for Monday evening at the university's College of Health and Social Services Auditorium in Las Cruces.

Valerie Jarrett served in the Obama White House through the duration of his presidency, working on public engagement and intergovernmental affairs until early 2017 when he left office.

Patti Wojahn, who heads NMSU's interdisciplinary studies program, called Jarrett a "role model and leader for women's equality."