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Albuquerque Sees Rise In Crime, Judge Says Griego Ethics Violations Relevant To Criminal Charges

Jul 7, 2016

Albuquerque Crime Spiked In 2015Associated Press

Albuquerque saw spikes in violent crimes as well as property crimes in 2015, defying national trends in cities of similar size.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, an annual report by the Albuquerque Police Department found violent crime, such as homicide, rape and assault, increased by nearly 10 percent from 2014. Property crime increased by nearly 12 percent.

The report shows auto theft jumped nearly 46 percent, which an APD spokeswoman attributed to warmup thefts when people leave their cars running unattended in the winter.

Mayor Richard Berry has hired researcher Peter Winograd under a $60,000 contract to analyze the data to find reasons behind the spikes. 

Judge Says Ethics Violations Relevant To Criminal ChargesThe Associated Press

A New Mexico district court judge says some prior admissions to violations of Senate ethics rules and the state constitution by a disgraced former senator can be used to determine whether the lawmaker should stand trial on criminal charges.

State District Judge Brett Loveless on Thursday denied a request to exclude a March 2015 agreement between a Senate ethics subcommittee and former Sen. Phil Griego, signed as he resigned from office. In the document Griego acknowledges violating a constitutional prohibition on benefiting from a state contract.

The New Mexico attorney general's office alleges Griego used his role as a senator to profit from the sale of a state owned building.

Defense attorney Thomas Clark says the ethics violations have no bearing on criminal accusations against Griego of fraud and bribery.

Harvard Researchers To Lead Navajo Economic CouncilThe Associated Press

Leaders with the nation's most expansive American Indian reservation have culled a team of experts from around the country to serve as economic advisers.

The Navajo Nation says its new advisory council will be made up of a senior fellow from the Harvard Business School, a Ford Foundation professor and co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, former Navajo President Peterson Zah and others.

The advisers will provide objective, analytical advice on economic policy for the remainder of Navajo President Russell Begaye's term.

One of the council's tasks will be exploring ways to diversify the Navajo Nation's economy in light of dwindling royalties from natural resources.

The tribe has long struggled to bring in businesses and unemployment hovers around 50 percent.

Juror Questions OK'd In Albuquerque Police Shooting TrialThe Associated Press & KOB

The questionnaire has been revised for potential jurors in the case of two former Albuquerque police officers charged with fatally shooting a homeless man.

Prosecutors had raised concerns that the jury pool could be tainted because of a mailer that went out containing a letter from one of the officer's wives pleading for donations to help her husband.

The mailer was issued by a nonprofit that supports police officers' legal defense.

Albuquerque station KOB-TV reports that court documents show both sides agreed lawyers could ask potential jurors about the fundraising efforts and if they or any family members participated in protests that followed the March 2014 shooting death of James Boyd.

Jury selection for the trial of ex-officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy is set to begin Sept. 12.

Albuquerque Launches Plan To Tackle Rape Kit BacklogThe Associated Press

Albuquerque police have launched a new effort to address the city's backlog of untested evidence kits from sexual assaults and rapes.

New Mexico's largest city has more than 3,000 untested kits, making up the bulk of the more than 5,400 at law enforcement agencies and evidence vaults around the state.

Additional funding will be used for the program, which involves hiring three investigators to evaluate the kits and testing those that could most likely help build criminal cases.

The backlog is a nationwide problem, and the state auditor's office announced earlier this year that it was looking into what practices led to processing delays in New Mexico.

The auditor's office plans to visit Albuquerque police and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office next week. A community meeting also is scheduled for Monday in Albuquerque.

Native American Meeting Gets Medical-Pot Provider As SponsorThe Associated Press & KOAT

A medical marijuana company operating in New Mexico and Arizona has signed on as a sponsor of one of North America's largest powwows.

Gathering of Nations organizers announced their partnership with Ultra Health this week, saying it's similar to health and dental clinics at previous powwows.

Founder Derek Mathews tells Albuquerque television station KOAT that marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes throughout the United States, particularly in Indian Country. He says it adds to the health and treatment options for the Native American community.

Officials didn't reveal the worth of the sponsorship, but it will run through 2022 and can be extended for another five years after that.

The powwow will relocate next year to Expo New Mexico. The event draws tens of thousands of spectators to Albuquerque.

Crews Make Progress Against Fire At Bosque Del Apache RefugeAssociated Press

Firefighters are making progress against a blaze that has charred more than a square mile at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Officials say the fire was 50 percent contained Wednesday thanks to work done on the west side of the Rio Grande. There are still active flames on the east side of the river that are keeping crews busy.

Chris Leeser with the refuge says officials have reopened the northern end of the tour loop to visitors and the visitor center will resume normal hours Thursday.

The fire started Monday and is burning mostly invasive salt cedar trees.

The refuge is an important stop for migratory birds. Every winter, thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl make this stretch of the Rio Grande home.

New Mexico Shuffles Management Of Food BenefitsAssociated Press

The director of an office overseeing supplementary food and financial assistance within the New Mexico Human Services Department has been reassigned amid state and federal inquiries into that office's handling of benefit applications.

The secretary of the Human Services Department announced in an email to agency employees that Marilyn Martinez is no longer director of the income support division and will instead oversee the agency's financial services bureau. Martinez could not immediately be reached.

Human Services spokesman Kyler Nerison said Wednesday the management change is unrelated to an ongoing internal investigation of the division's handling of benefits.

Martinez invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called in May to testify in federal court about allegations that managers changed or pressured workers into changing application information for emergency food benefits.

Santa Fe Superintendent Leaves For Private SectorAssociated Press

The superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools has announced that he is leaving the district for a private education company.

Superintendent Joel Boyd vowed to turn the city's public schools around within five years and told the school board two months ago that he planned to finish out his contract. He withdrew his name from consideration for the top job in another district.

But Boyd he said Tuesday that he will resign after four years to become senior vice president of the San Francisco-based education software company BrightBytes. The firm collects and uses data to recommend ways to improve academic achievement.

There is no word yet on who may replace Boyd.

Court Orders Release Of Kids, Not Parents, From ICE CustodyAssociated Press

A federal appeals court says Homeland Security officials must quickly release immigrant children — but not their parents — from family detention centers after being picked up crossing the border without documentation.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that lengthy detentions of migrant children violated a legal settlement ordering their quick release after processing.

But the appeals court ruled that immigration authorities can continue to detain the children's parents, reversing a trial judge's ruling.

The government poured millions of dollars into two large detention centers in Texas after tens of thousands of immigrant families, mostly mothers with children from Central America, crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. in 2014. Many have petitioned for asylum after fleeing gang and domestic violence back home.

John Jones Dropped From UFC 200 After Potential Doping ViolationAssociated Press

UFC interim light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was notified of a potential doping violation Wednesday night, ruling him out of his bout with Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 200.

A grim-faced UFC President Dana White announced the dramatic change three days before the mixed martial arts promotion’s landmark show.

Jones, who lives in Albuquerque and trains at Jackson-Wink MMA, tested positive for an unspecified banned substance in an out-of-competition sample taken June 16 by USADA, which administers the promotion’s anti-drug policy.

While Jones is considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in MMA, he has apparently failed drug tests around two of his past three scheduled fights.

Harvard Researchers To Lead Navajo Economic Council Associated Press

Leaders with the nation's most expansive American Indian reservation have culled a team of experts from around the country to serve as economic advisers.

The Navajo Nation says its new advisory council will be made up of a senior fellow from the Harvard Business School, a Ford Foundation professor and co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, former Navajo President Peterson Zah and others.

The advisers will provide objective, analytical advice on economic policy for the remainder of Navajo President Russell Begaye's term.

One of the council's tasks will be exploring ways to diversify the Navajo Nation's economy in light of dwindling royalties from natural resources.

The tribe has long struggled to bring in businesses and unemployment hovers around 50 percent.

Las Cruces Takes Steps To Buy Private Water Utility Associated Press

Las Cruces city councilors are moving forward with plans to purchase the assets of a privately-owned water utility for more than $16 million.

The council's action this week involved the condemnation of the Jornada Water Co.'s assets as part of the acquisition process.

The city's utility board will consider recommending the issuance of revenue bonds to finance the purchase during a meeting later this month. Then, in August, the full council will vote on the bonds.

The sale would include all infrastructure and nearly 6,000 acre-feet of groundwater rights.

Parts of the utility's system already meet city standards and include 20 well sites, several booster stations and storage tanks and about 90 miles of water lines.

The utility serves about 3,500 customers on the edges of Las Cruces.

Man Accused Of Violating Federal Law By Trying To Sell HawksAssociated Press

A 44-year-old New Mexico man is charged with violating a migratory bird law by allegedly trying to sell hawks without federal permission.

Wayne Martin of the Cochiti Pueblo in Sandoval County pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court in Albuquerque.

The indictment accuses Martin of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act on Feb. 29, 2012. The law makes it illegal to possess, offer for sale, or sell migratory birds or parts or products of migratory birds.

John Van Butcher, a federal public defender appointed to represent Martin, did not immediately return a call for comment on the allegations against Martin.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says the case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Farmington Officer Selected As Navajo Nation Police Chief Associated Press

A Farmington, New Mexico, police officer has been chosen as the Navajo Nation's police chief, following a lengthy hiring process.

The tribe Wednesday announced the selection of 40-year-old Phillip Francisco, now a Farmington Police Department patrol and training officer.

The tribe's last police chief, Jim Benally, stepped down in 2008 amid political turmoil. Various officers have overseen the department temporarily since.

Francisco's law enforcement career also includes stints with the Aztec Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

The tribe initially limited the position to its members, but tribal spokesman Mihio Manus in January said the restriction was lifted because it was a struggle to find qualified applicants.

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