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Thursday News Roundup
Thu August 21, 2014
Headlines: NM Signs Off On KAFB Jet Fuel Clean Up Plan, UNM Confirms Hazing And More...
New Mexico Signs Off On Air Force Clean-Up Plan - The Associated Press
State environmental regulators have signed off on a preliminary proposal by the U.S. Air Force to clean up a huge plume of jet fuel before the contamination reaches Albuquerque's drinking water wells.
The Air Force submitted its plan earlier this month. The New Mexico Environment Department announced its approval in a letter sent yesterday to officials at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The plan calls for drilling a new well designed to extract contaminated water so it can be treated and eventually used as reclaimed water on base property. Other monitoring wells would also be installed.
State regulators have asked for weekly updates and plan to make unannounced site visits while the work is underway.
The fuel came from a decades-old leak from underground pipes at a Kirtland aircraft fuel-loading facility.
New Mexico Says No Question About Hazing – The Associated Press
he University of New Mexico's athletic director says there's absolutely no question there was hazing by the women's soccer team.
Athletic Director Paul Krebs told a news conference Wednesday that the incident involved the entire women's soccer team and that alcohol was involved. Two team members were sent to the hospital following the incident, which a police report said involved players who were extremely intoxicated.
Krebs says no one was forced to drink, but because of peer pressure officials consider it hazing,
Krebs says the team is participating in anti-hazing classes and will have to do community service.
He says the investigation continues and additional punishments are possible.
On Tuesday, two sisters quit the team and withdrew from the school.
Bloomfield Will Appeal Ruling On City's Monument - The Associated Press and Daily Times
The Bloomfield City Council has voted to appeal a judge's ruling that the northwestern New Mexico city must remove a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments from the lawn in front of City Hall.
Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker ruled Aug. 7 that the monument has the "principal effect of endorsing religion" in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
After the council's unanimous vote Wednesday, City Attorney Ryan Lane disputed Parker's finding that the monument constitutes "government speech" and he told The Daily Times that the monument is nothing more than a public forum.
Parker's ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties suit was filed in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who practice the Wiccan religion.
New Mexico Educational Pension Fund Up $1 Billion - The Associated Press
New Mexico's educational pension program reports that strong investment returns helped the retirement fund grow by more than $1 billion in the past year.
The Educational Retirement Board said the fund had assets of nearly $11.3 billion as of June 30 at the end of the 2014 budget year. That's up from about $10.1 billion a year ago.
The pension fund earned investment returns of 14.5 percent during the fiscal year, which was above its annual target of 7.75 percent.
During the past 10 years, the fund has averaged an annual net-of-fees return of 7.3 percent and 12.6 percent in the past five years.
The educational pension program covers about 35,000 retirees and 65,000 workers ranging from public school teachers and principals to college faculty.
Lawyers: Fed Prosecutor Has 'Vendetta' On Sheriff - The Associated Press
Lawyers for an indicted northern New Mexico sheriff say the federal prosecutor has a vendetta against their client.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella's lawyers accused U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez in a letter this week of prosecutorial misconduct.
They say last week's indictment came after Martinez threatened Rodella with arrest over his opposition to federal patrols in northern New Mexico.
Rodella and his son were indicted for conspiracy to violate a motorist's civil rights last week for their role in a March traffic stop.
A spokeswoman for Martinez declined to comment.
Charges Dropped On Albuquerque Protester - The Associated Press
Prosecutors say they won't pursue a battery charge against an Albuquerque protester — for now.
Court records show that prosecutors have notified authorities that the charge against David Correia was dropped but could be brought back later.
Correia was arrested in June along with 12 others during a sit-in at the mayor's office. The demonstrators were protesting recent Albuquerque police shootings.
Authorities claim Correia shoved an officer who was trying to prevent a crowd from entering Mayor Richard Berry's office.
Correia says authorities do not have evidence to prosecute him because he did nothing wrong.
He added that he will continue to participate in peaceful protests around the city aimed at bringing attention to police shootings.
Santa Fe Ordered To Give Payroll Records In Probe - The Associated Press
and Santa Fe New Mexican
A prosecutor has ordered the city of Santa Fe to produce payroll records of a police commander as part of an investigation into possible payroll fraud.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a First Judicial District Court panel sent the request last week in connection to interim Santa Fe Police Captain Jason Wagner.
The subpoena requests a copy of the internal investigation of police into Wagner's "unauthorized leave/falsification of time sheets." It also requests his timesheets from Jan. 1, 2013, until he resigned last December amid allegations he lied on his time card.
Santa Fe's new police chief, Eric Garcia, rehired Wagner in July.
Wagner says the news coverage about his rehiring was unfair.
Garcia says his department will assist the District Attorney's Office "in every way possible."
Former Lab Worker Sentenced In Nuke Secrets Plot - The Associated Press
A former Los Alamos National Laboratory contractor has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiring with her physicist husband to sell nuclear secrets.
The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the sentencing of 71-year-old Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, who pleaded guilty to charges accusing the couple of plotting to communicate classified nuclear weapons data to an undercover agent who they thought was a Venezuelan government official.
Her husband, 79-year-old Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, has also pleaded guilty in the case and is in federal custody pending his sentencing. He was a scientist at the lab from 1979 to 1988. She did technical writing and editing from 1981 to 2010. Prosecutors say both held security clearances that allowed them access to certain classified information and restricted data.
New Mexico Has Year's 1st Human Case Of West Nile - The Associated Press
A 45-year-old woman from San Juan County is the first human case of West Nile virus identified in New Mexico this year.
The name of the woman wasn't released.
New Mexico Department of Health officials say the woman isn't hospitalized and is recovering at home.
New Mexico typically sees most of its West Nile virus cases in August and September.
The potentially fatal neurological illness typically is spread by mosquitoes. Fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches are common symptoms.
New Mexico recorded 38 human cases of the virus last year. Those included three fatalities.
Bandelier Joins List Of Parks Banning Drones - The Associated Press
Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico is banning the use of drones.
Monument officials announced the ban Wednesday, saying incidents involving unmanned aircraft at other national parks around the country prompted the decision. The ban will be in effect until further notice.
Officials cited instances in which wildlife and visitors seeking quiet and solitude were disturbed by buzzing drones. They also pointed to the recent crash of a drone into Yellowstone's famous Grand Prismatic Spring.
Under the new rule, anyone caught using model airplanes, quadcopters or other types of drones within the monument's boundaries could face fines up to $5,000 and six months in jail.
Four other large national parks in the Southwest have already changed their rules to ban drones, including Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Charge Dismissed Against Rancher In Mother's Death - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal
A murder charge against a northeastern New Mexico rancher accused of killing her 89-year-old mother has been dropped because authorities say they now cannot say the death was a homicide.
A preliminary hearing to decide whether Donna Ray should stand trial in the January death of Geraldine Ray at the family's Harding County ranch was scheduled Monday, but instead the case was dismissed.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the state Office of the Medical Investigator changed its death finding from homicide to undetermined and District Attorney Timothy Rose said prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to proceed.
Rose and defense attorney Dan Cron said Donna Ray's fingerprints weren't on any evidence and that handwriting analysis concluded that Geraldine Ray wrote suicide notes found in the home after police searched it.
Homicide Suspect Is Arrested In Albuquerque - The Associated Press and KOB TV
Authorities say a suspect in an Albuquerque homicide three months ago now is in custody.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say gunfire was exchanged Wednesday with the suspect, identified as 45-year-old Alex Trinidad Gallegos.
Authorities say Gallegos was wounded and tried to break into four houses in a northwest Albuquerque neighborhood. He was found hiding in the closet of one home after sheriff's deputies followed a trail of blood.
Deputies had joined Albuquerque police and Homeland Security agents in the search for the suspect wanted in the May 10 kidnapping and killing of 41-year-old Sergio Bickham.
Police say Bickham was found dead in a tunnel near Interstate 40.
KOB-TV says one man was arrested in the case in June and confessed to being part of Bickham's kidnapping, but not the homicide.