State May Extend School Year, Kavanaugh Becomes Flashpoint In Governors' Races

Sep 28, 2018

Struggling New Mexico Schools May Lengthen School YearAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are studying ways to extend the typical school year by 10 days or more, with longer summer extensions at schools catering to low-income families.

A report from the Legislature's lead budget writing committee released on Friday puts a price tag on efforts to extend instructional time and shorten long summer gaps that increase disparities in learning.

Public education reforms are taking shape as the state judiciary threatens intervene and shore up New Mexico's struggling school system — potentially by injunction if the Legislature and executive branch do not act.

A July district court ruling is under appeal by departing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, while two candidates to replace her in November elections are showing little or no enthusiasm for disputing a judge's guidance.

New Mexico Woman Gets 15-Year Prison Term In Infant's DeathAssociated Press

A New Mexico woman has been sentenced to 15 years in a federal prison in connection with the death of her infant daughter in 2007.

Prosecutors say 36-year-old Sophia Zayas was sentenced Thursday after her conviction on a charge of child abuse resulting in great bodily harm.

Her husband, Peter Zayas, is scheduled to sentenced Oct. 2 on a negligent child abuse conviction.

At the time of his April 2012 arrest, Peter Zayas was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base.

Authorities say Sophia Zayas and her husband caused the October 2007 death of their 2-month-old daughter, who suffered fractures in her skull, ribs and arms.

In his plea agreement, Peter Zayas admitted he left the child in his wife's care despite knowing she had a history of alcohol abuse.

Defense Questions Plans For New Charge Against Ex-Deputy Associated Press

An attorney for a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy says he questions prosecutors' motivation in planning to bring a voluntary manslaughter charge against the officer after two juries cleared him of murder in the shooting death of a fellow deputy.

Tom Clark's comments Friday came a day after District Attorney Mark D'Antonio in Las Cruces said his office will seek a grand jury indictment for voluntary manslaughter against Tai Chan. Clark questioned whether justice or ego is driving the decision.

Juries twice have been unable to reach unanimous verdicts on murder charges against Chan in the 2014 shooting of Deputy Jeremy Martin at a Las Cruces hotel.

Chan maintains he opened fire in self-defense after a night of drinking and arguing.

D'Antonio says he's seeking the lesser charge after consulting with police and Martin's family.

Police Say Michigan Man Fatally Shot While Walking In Santa FeSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe police say they have made no arrests in a fatal shooting that killed a Michigan man.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the family of Richard Milan, who fatally shot Wednesday night, says he was on a cross-country road trip with his wife from California to their home in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The 64-year-old man was fatally shot in the leg by an unknown attacker while he walking his dog by an abandoned McDonald's.

Santa Fe police announced Tuesday that Milan died at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center.

On Thursday, Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said officers had made no arrests in Milan's death.

Police say the motive behind the shooting and how many people were involved is unknown.

Milan is the fifth homicide victim in Santa Fe this year.

Kavanaugh Becomes Flashpoint In Governors' Races Associated Press

The battle over sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has spilled into the nation's contested governor's races.

In New Mexico, where two members of Congress are running for governor, Republican candidate Steve Pearce said in a statement that "it will be up to the U.S. Senate and the American people to decide the path forward."

Democratic candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was inspired by Ford's courage.

She said in a statement that Kavanaugh's nomination must be withdrawn immediately, citing President Trump's "refusal to call for a thorough, independent FBI investigation into the multiple credible allegations" against the Supreme Court nominee.

New Mexico To Monitor National Labs Under Renewed Grant Associated Press

New Mexico environmental regulators will continue monitoring two national laboratories in the state under a grant renewed by the U.S. Energy Department.

The renewal helps to fund ongoing environmental oversight and monitoring by the state at Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

Federal officials say the five-year grant provides a mechanism for independent monitoring at the labs and assures information is made public about the health, safety and environmental effects of certain activities at the labs.

The state Environment Department and the Energy Department have a similar agreement for monitoring the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.

Artist Sues Val Kilmer Over Tumbleweed Sculptures Associated Press

A Texas artist is suing Val Kilmer, saying the actor co-opted his work.

Bale Creek Allen says in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that he had been creating golden-laden tumbleweed sculptures for years and selling them in galleries in Austin, Texas, and Santa Fe when he noticed Kilmer had begun selling "identical" pieces.

Before the discovery, Allen says Kilmer had approached him about the sculptures, which the "Batman Forever" and "Tombstone" star ultimately said he could not afford. When the artist asked Kilmer to stop selling the pieces, the actor did not respond.

Kilmer, who used to own a ranch outside of Santa Fe, began selling his own artwork a couple years ago. He could not immediately be reached late Thursday for comment.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in New Mexico seeks unspecified damages.

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.

New Mexico Prosecutors Say Lawmaker Violated Ethics Rules Associated 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 use her position as a lawmaker to influence officers. At the checkpoint, Youngblood said she wrote bills to protect police.

Navajo Nation Vice President To Continue Presidential Bid –Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A Navajo Nation official has determined that the tribe's current vice president is still eligible to continue running for tribal presidency despite leaving a 2002 misdemeanor conviction out of his candidate application.

The Farmington Daily Times reported Wednesday that former presidential candidate Vincent H. Yazzie filed a grievance earlier this month in the Navajo Nation's Office of Hearing and Appeals, claiming that Jonathan Nez was not qualified to run for the presidency since it appeared he violated the tribe's election code by not disclosing the 2002 misdemeanor on his application.

Chief Hearing Officer Richie Nez, who has no relation to Jonathan Nez, has ruled that the grievance was insufficient.

He says that under tribal law, convictions more than five years old do not affect qualifications.


Ruling Upholds Penalties For Failing To Produce Records Associated 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.

Federal Judge Dismisses Navajo's Lawsuit Against Wells Fargo - Associated 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.