Groups Criticize AG For Working With NYC Energy Center, Footage Of Fatal Train Crash Damaged

Jul 15, 2019

New Mexico AG Draws Fire For Working With NYU Energy Center – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is drawing criticism for employing two lawyers funded by a New York University center that promotes clean energy and environmental laws.

The energy advocacy group Power the Future and the American Tort Reform Association have raised concerns, with the association describing the arrangement nationally as an improper way for outside interests to embed attorneys in public offices.

The attorney general's office tells the Albuquerque Journal that while the NYU School of Law pays their salaries, the lawyers are managed by New Mexico officials.

Office spokesman Matt Baca says dozens of employees in Attorney General Hector Balderas' office are funded by outside sources, including federal grants or legal settlements.

Larry Behrens with Power the Future says the arrangement makes it look as though positions in public offices are for sale.

Federal Regulators Say Skier Triggered Deadly Snow SlideAssociated Press

The U.S. Forest Service says a skier triggered an avalanche in January at a ski resort in northern New Mexico that led to his death and the death of another skier after they were overrun by snow.

In a written review of the incident obtained by the Associated Press on Monday, the Forest Service found that Taos Ski Valley followed safety procedures under its federal permit in the days and weeks leading up to the Jan. 17 avalanche within ski area boundaries.

The Forest Service reviewed extensive records of avalanche control measures including explosives and interviewed personnel at Taos Ski Valley who responded to the snow slide.

Forest Service regional Winter Sports Coordinator Adam LaDell says the agency's review showed that ski resort personnel complied with operating procedures.

Agreement Calls For Shield's Return To Tribe In New Mexico – Associated Press

A settlement agreement filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico calls for a Paris auction house to return a ceremonial shield to a Native American tribe that considers it sacred.

Under the agreement filed Friday, the EVE auction house is to release the artifact to the U.S. Embassy in Paris for transport to Albuquerque by a federal agent.

The auction house previously listed the shield among many Native American items for sale.

Those signing the agreement included Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo and Jerold Collings, a resident of rural western New Mexico who has said he inherited the shield from his mother.

The tribe has pressed for repatriations of ceremonial items from galleries, auction houses and private collections, and Vallo called the shield's return homecoming "critical and highly sensitive."

2 Accusers Speak At Epstein Bail HearingAssociated Press

Two of Jeffrey Epstein's accusers have spoken at his bail hearing.

Courtney Wild said Monday in Manhattan federal court that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14.

She calls him a "scary person" and urges detention "for the safety of any other girls" out there.

Annie Farmer says she was 16 when she "had the misfortune" of meeting Epstein and later went to spend time with him in New Mexico.

She says he behaved inappropriately. She declined to give details.

Attorney General Hector Balderas' office has confirmed that it has interviewed possible victims of Epstein who visited the sprawling Zorro Ranch south of Santa Fe, where Epstein built a home in the 1990s.

Balderas says his office planned to forward findings to federal authorities.

The judge says he'll announce his decision on bail Thursday.

Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest.

Work Group Focuses On New Mexico Marijuana MeasureAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

There's no question Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants state lawmakers to take up the matter of legalizing marijuana when they meet again in January for a 30-day legislative session.

A work group charged with crafting a bill to do that had its first meeting this week.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the group isn't starting from scratch as it's looking to use legislation from the last session as a template.

That measure, which stalled in the Senate, would have imposed a tax of at least 17% on marijuana sales. The revenue would have toward health, law enforcement and research programs.

The working group plans to hold at least four more public meetings before making a final recommendation to Lujan Grisham by the end of October. Those meetings will include events in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.

Footage Of Fatal Crash Involving Commuter Train, Car Damaged - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities in Albuquerque may have hit a snag in their investigation into a fatal crash involving a commuter train and a car.

The Albuquerque Journal reports cameras on the Rail Runner Express train are supposed to record everything that happens while the train is operating.

Rio Metro Regional Transit District officials say the hard drive those cameras feed into was damaged during the July 3 crash, rendering both the device and the footage useless.

Rio Metro operates the commuter train.

Police say 28-year-old Nicole Lopez was killed when a train hit her car after she drove under the lowering crossing arm.

They suspect the incident occurred because of driver inattention.

Without the video, investigators don't know exactly how long Lopez's car sat on the tracks after the crossing arms went down.

Prosecutors Reviewing Report On Death Of Albuquerque Inmate - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Prosecutors are reviewing a 155-page report detailing the criminal investigation into the death of an inmate at the Bernalillo County jail earlier this year.

The Albuquerque Journal also reports that Metropolitan Detention Center Chief Ralph Fernandez's internal investigation into the Feb. 2 death of 37-year-old Vicente Villela is pending.

Villela died as several correctional officers allegedly held him down in a prone position in a cell hours after he had been booked into jail.

The Journal says the incident was captured on video from a hand-held camera.

An attorney representing Villela's family says Villela died from excessive force.

A spokesman for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney's Office says videos, witness statements and other documents must be thoroughly investigated before a decision on possible prosecution is reached.

Hundreds Of Guns Turned In During Albuquerque Buyback Event - Associated Press

Hundreds of guns have been turned into Albuquerque police during a gun buyback intended to help reduce gun violence in New Mexico's most populous city.

The Police Department calls the 415 guns turned in Saturday "an overwhelming response from the public" and says the weapons will become part of an art project addressing gun violence.

Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement that the event provided a safe means for people to dispose of unwanted guns while taking firearms out of circulation.

The department said residents were able to turn in guns with no questions asked and that five of the guns had been reported stolen.

Those turning in guns were paid $75 for handguns, shotguns and rifles and $100 for assault rifles.

Rock Climber Dies After A 140-Foot Fall In Sandia Mountains - Associated Press

Authorities say a rock climber has died after falling about 140 feet in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque.

Bernalillo County Fire Department officials say several people were on a rock-climbing excursion when one climber slipped and fell Saturday morning.

The name of the victim hasn't been released yet.

Authorities say the victim was repelling off the Clandestine Wall on the north side of the Sandia Crest and fell after a possible equipment malfunction.

Numerous law enforcement and search and rescue agencies attempted to recover the body throughout the day but called off the operation around 7 p.m. due to rain and terrain that was dangerous for a helicopter.

KRQE-TV reports New Mexico State Police confirmed they were able to successfully recover the climber’s body Sunday.

Arrest In Albuquerque Apartment Complex Fire - Associated Press

A woman is accused of arson in a fire that heavily damaged an Albuquerque apartment complex, displacing residents of 24 units and sending several people to a hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.

KOB-TV and KOAT-TV report that court records say 29-year-old Cherlynn Martinez was arrested on suspicion of arson in the Friday fire and that a sister of Martinez had called 911 to report that Martinez was setting the fire and that the sister had pleaded with her to stop.

There was no indication of a possible motive.

Bernalillo County jail records show Martinez is in custody and online court records don't list a defense attorney for Martinez who could comment on the allegation.

Fire Department spokesman Tom Ruiz said an adult and two young children were in stable condition after treatment for smoke inhalation.

The Red Cross said it was assisting displaced residents.

Albuquerque Museum Offers Journey Through New Mexico History - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Hundreds of items representing centuries of New Mexico history will be on display as part of a new exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum.

The items range from letters written by outlaw Billy the Kid to more contemporary objects that are part of the Palace of the Governors extensive collection.

The Albuquerque Museum's curator of art, Josie Lopez, tells KRQE-TV that the exhibit is like a journey through time that starts with the 1700s.

The letters by Billy the Kid involve him wanting to testify about a killing that he witnessed in exchange for his freedom. Lopez says one letter was written just months before the outlaw ended up being killed.

Other pieces include an old penny farthing bicycle and classic dresses.

The exhibit runs through Oct. 20.