Friday News Roundup: Certain Shipments From Los Alamos Lab Halted

May 2, 2014

Certain Shipments From Los Alamos Lab Halted The Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy says the shipment of certain kinds of nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to a storage facility in west Texas has been halted.

The agency made the announcement Friday, as investigators continue searching for the cause of a Feb. 14 radiation leak at the federal government's underground repository in southeastern New Mexico.

Department officials say investigators are evaluating the contents of a set of drums that came from Los Alamos. The team is looking at the possibility that a chemical reaction may have occurred within a drum, causing a potential release.

Officials say they're looking at all possible causes, including the waste packages themselves.

Los Alamos is under a tight deadline to get waste off its northern New Mexico campus before wildfire season peaks.

Lawyer: New Mexico Man Lost Testicle In Arrest The Associated Press

A lawyer for a University of New Mexico law student says his client was kneed in the groin by an Albuquerque police officer during an arrest and was forced to have surgery.

Sam Bregman, attorney for 24-year-old Jeremy Martin, said Friday the law student had to have emergency surgery to remove an injured testicle following his arrest for aggravated driving under the influence and possession of marijuana.

According to a criminal complaint, Martin was pulled over April 25 by officer P. Padilla after he was seen running a stop sign.

The complaint says Martin was in a car with others and was asked to sit on a curb. However, the complaint only says Martin "actively resisted" Padilla's instructions and was handcuffed.

The U.S. Justice Department recently reported Albuquerque police have engaged in a pattern of excessive force.

Probe: New Mexico Official Misused Public MoneyKOAT and The Associated Press

The state auditor says an elected official used public money for casinos, gas stations, hotels and other personal items.

State Auditor Hector Balderas told KOAT-TV that former Tierra Amarilla Land Grant Board President Dennis Wells, who has since died, stole money that was supposed to go toward the land, but spent nearly all of it for his own personal use.

Balderas said Wells used taxpayers' money on items like a car, carpet, dental work and penis enhancement pills.

He said restitution could come from his estate and also believes other people may be involved.

Balderas is now asking for an FBI criminal investigation. He is also asking for the state's Land Grant Committee, which is part of the New Mexico Legislature, to more closely monitor local land grant boards.

New Mexico Taking Aim At Drone Use In Hunting The Associated PressNew Mexico is in line to become the next state to take aim at the use of drones for hunting big game animals.

Alaska, Colorado and Montana already have outlawed the use of drones in hunting, but some sportsmen groups and animal advocates are pushing to see that regulations are passed in every state to protect the concept of fair chase.

They say the art of hunting should be based on physical senses and traditions that have been honed over generations, not technological advancements such as drones.

New Mexico's Game Commission is set to vote this month on a proposal that would make it illegal to use drones to signal an animal's location, harass a game animal or hunt a protected species observed from a drone within 48 hours.


New Mexico Deputy To Face Lesser Charges In Death  The Associated Press

A prosecutor says a Dona Ana County sheriff's deputy will be prosecuted in the death of a pedestrian but not on the vehicular homicide charge recommended by New Mexico State Police.

State police had filed a criminal complaint accusing Deputy Eden Terrazas of vehicular homicide in the April 1 death of 44-year-old Mesquite resident Natividad Nunez. The deputy's cruiser hit Nunez as the deputy responded to an emergency call.

District Attorney Mark D'Antonio says the deputy can't be charged with vehicular homicide because there's no proof of the required intentional disregard for the safety of others.

D'Antonio says the deputy instead will be prosecuted on lesser included offenses. His spokeswoman says those charges are careless driving and one involving the requirement to use a seat belt.

Crews Find Damaged Material At WIPPThe Associated Press 

Crews searching for the source of a radiation release from the government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have found damaged bags of minerals in the mine, but officials say they have yet to identify what caused the radiation leak.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday that workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant found several huge bags of magnesium chloride that are placed on top of waste containers to absorb moisture and carbon dioxide have been "grossly disturbed." It's not clear, however, what damaged the bags. And officials say they haven't found any structural damage in the waste-storage area of the repository near Carlsbad.

The dump has been shuttered since a Feb. 14 leak sent low levels of radiation into the air, contaminating 21 workers with radiation.

Court Rules Some Felons Can Hold Public Office The Associated Press

The state Supreme Court has ruled that convicted felons in New Mexico can hold public office if they received a deferred sentence and charges are dismissed.

The court issued the decision Thursday in answering a state law question from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in a New Mexico man's appeal over a federal charge of being a felon in possession of firearms.

Judges can defer sentencing until an offender completes a period of probation, and charges are dismissed if the individual complies with the probation conditions. The conviction remains in court records, but the justices said a person's civil rights are restored, including the ability to hold public office.

The court said the Legislature "established the deferred sentence as a means of judicial clemency."

Tribe, Robert Redford Group OK Wild Horses Plan – The Associated Press

The Navajo Nation and a group founded by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and actor Robert Redford have agreed on a plan to manage thousands of wild horses on the reservation.

Richardson says the agreement is a first step in trying to find a long-term, humane alternative to sending horses to slaughterhouses.

The agreement announced Thursday calls for adoptions, triages, veterinarian services and sanctuaries. A formal signing is planned later this year.

Navajo officials say wild horses have been drinking wells dry and causing ecological damage to the drought-stricken range.

Tribal President Ben Shelly has said the land and the animals must be managed responsibly.

Richardson and Redford created the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife last year to fight efforts by a Roswell, New Mexico, company and others to slaughter horses.

State Health Exchange Looking At Financing Options The Associated Press

New Mexico's state-run health insurance exchange is asking the public for its views on how to raise about $24 million dollars annually to pay for operating the online marketplace starting in 2016.

Among the options are fees on private insurance companies selling policies in the state.

Exchange governing board chairman J. R. Damron said Thursday no decision will be made for several months on a financing plan.

The board is soliciting public comments through the end of the month.

The federal government currently is picking up the tab for developing and running exchanges in New Mexico and across the country.

New Mexico initially relied on a federally operated online system for enrolling individuals. The state-run exchange handled small businesses but will assume the job of individual enrollment this fall.

Martinez Announces Summer Food Program For NM Kids The Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez says the state is ready to help children who face the threat of going without a meal once school lets out for the summer.

Martinez announced this year's food service program during a visit to Albuquerque on Thursday. She'll be in Espanola on today [Friday] to talk more about the program.

Since 2010, the governor's office says 36 new sites have been added, and the program expects to serve more than 2 million meals across New Mexico this year.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and operated by the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department. The state agency reimburses sponsoring organizations for the administration and service of meals at approved sites when school is out.

The meals are free and no registration is required.