KUNM

Headlines: Rain And The NM Drought, Satan Worship, Rodella, Gas Prices In Four Corners

Sep 24, 2014

Credit National Weather Service

Rains Ease New Mexico's Short-Term DroughtThe Associated Press

Heavy rain and flooding have hammered parts of New Mexico over the past week, but all the moisture hasn't been enough to scare the drought away.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque say the southern third of New Mexico has seen 200 percent or more of its average rainfall so far this month, but nearly 70 percent of the state is still dealing with some degree of drought.

Despite September's rains and close-to-average precipitation in August, New Mexico is still behind 6.86 inches when the last three years are factored in.

Forecasters say there's at least a 60 percent chance of an El Nino weather pattern developing this fall and winter. That means New Mexico could be in line for some more moisture.

Inmate Not Allowed To Worship Satan - The Associated Press & KRQE

A state prison inmate says New Mexico correction officials aren't allowing him to practice his religion and properly worship Satan behind bars.

KRQE-TV reports that Bernard Pritchard recently filed a lawsuit in state court alleging the chaplain and deputy warden at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces treat his faith differently than others.

Pritchard is asking a judge to force the New Mexico Corrections Department to let him worship Satan more freely and wants $140,000 in damages.

The lawsuit doesn't spell out specifically how Pritchard believes his rights were violated.

The New Mexico Corrections Department declined to comment on the lawsuit. Anthony Romero, deputy director of adult prisons, says officials try to accommodate all religions.

Pritchard is serving time on aggravated stalking charges.

Jogger: Motorist Almost Hit Indicted Sheriff - The Associated Press

A witness says a fleeing motorist appeared to almost hit with his car a northern New Mexico sheriff later indicted for roughing up the driver.

Mark Thompson told jurors Tuesday that he thought 26-year-old Michael Tafoya nearly struck Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella in a dead end of a county road after Tafoya's vehicle got caught up on a pole.

Rodella is standing trial for federal charges of deprivation of rights and brandishing a firearm. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Rodella injured Tafoya following an alleged road rage chase in March.

Thompson, who was jogging near the encounter, says didn't see everything when the sheriff and his son wrestled with Tafoya.

Rio Arriba County sheriff's deputies also testified it was unusual for a law enforcement officer, in his private vehicle, to pursue another car.

New Mexico Probes Gas Prices In Farmington Area - The Associated Press & The Daily Times

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is investigating whether gasoline prices in the state's portion of the Four Corners region are too high.

The Daily Times reports that the office says it is investigating because it has received numerous complaints about extremely high gas prices.

Office spokeswoman Lynn Southard says the office doesn't release details on open investigations and she cannot specify how many complaints were made.

According to Southard, the investigation's findings will be released after the investigation is completed.,

The Attorney General's Office conducted a similar investigation in the Hobbs area about a year ago.

Report Alleges District Attorney Deleted Emails - The Associated Press

A report released by the District Attorney's Office in Las Cruces says a former district attorney and staffers deleted politically sensitive emails before leaving office.

The report released by current District Attorney Mark D'Antonio's office says the emails were found to be missing when the office received a public records request last spring by the state Democratic Party.

That request sought records related to then-District Attorney Susana Martinez's first campaign for the governor in 2009 and 2010.

Martinez, is a Republican, as is her former chief deputy, Amy Orlando, who replaced Martinez as district attorney when Martinez was elected governor.

D'Antonio, a Democrat, then beat Orlando in the 2012 election.

A detailed story and a copy of the report appear in this week’s edition of the Santa Fe Reporter.  The Albuquerque Journal has a brief summary.   

Orlando says the report released by D'Antonio is "nothing but baseless innuendos and black-helicopter conspiracy theories."

Governor Outspending Challenger 4-To-1 On TV Ads - The Associated Press

A nonpartisan national group reports that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has spent four times as much as Democratic challenger Gary King on television advertising in New Mexico's race for governor.

The Center for Public Integrity says Martinez has aired about 3,700 ads through Sept. 8 at a cost of about $1.7 million while King has spent a little over $400,000 to broadcast about 800 ads in his primary and general-election campaigns.

The Republican Governors Association has pumped more than $400,000 into the New Mexico governor's race to run about 700 ads that targeted King.

The lopsided ad war partly reflects King's fundraising struggles. Martinez had a 24-to-1 advantage in campaign cash at the start of the month.

NM Settles Emissions Violations At Gas Plant - The Associated Press

The New Mexico Environment Department says it has reached a settlement with Frontier Field Services LLC over alleged emissions violations at the company's gas plant in Eddy County.

The Empire Abo Gas Plant was accused of exceeding permit limits for carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and other emissions on several occasions between July 2011 and December 2012.

It also was accused of flaring gas that should have been rerouted back into processing.

The settlement requires a civil penalty payment of more than $938,000.

The Environment Department says Frontier has taken corrective action to prevent future violations.

New Mexico Probes Gas Prices In Farmington Area - The Associated Press and Daily Times

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is investigating whether gasoline prices in the state's portion of the Four Corners region are too high.

The Daily Times reports that the office says it is investigating because it has received numerous complaints about extremely high gas prices.

Office spokeswoman Lynn Southard says the office doesn't release details on open investigations and she cannot specify how many complaints were made.

According to Southard, the investigation's findings will be released after the investigation is completed.,

The Attorney General's Office conducted a similar investigation in the Hobbs area about a year ago.

Trial Of Sheriff Accused Of 'Road Rage' Continues - The Associated Press

Defense lawyers are trying to cast doubt on a motorist's account that a northern New Mexico sheriff roughed him during a heated traffic stop.

Attorneys for Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella questioned Michael Tafoya on Tuesday over his claims that the lawman injured him following an alleged road rage chase in March.

Rodella is standing trial for federal charges of deprivation of rights and brandishing a firearm. He has pleaded not guilty.

The 26-year-old Tafoya told jurors he begged for his life as Rodella pulled a gun on him and gave him a bruise under his right eye.

But defense lawyer Robert Gorence questioned Tafoya on why didn't some photos taken after the encounter show facial injuries.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to continue this week.

USA's Drama 'Stanistan' To Film In Santa Fe - The Associated Press

USA's television drama pilot "Stanistan" starring Zack Gilford of "Friday Night Lights" is set to start filming in New Mexico.

New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis said Tuesday production will begin in Santa Fe at the end of the month through the middle of October.

Officials say the production will employ at least 100 New Mexico crew members, 15 New Mexico actors and around 400 local background talent.

"Stanistan" takes audiences behind the fortified walls of the U.S. Embassy in an Afghan-like South Asian hot spot.

Jennifer Carpenter of the Showtime drama series "Dexter" also stars in the production.

Albuquerque Diagnostic Test Company Files For IPO - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque company which markets diagnostic tests for lupus and other autoimmune rheumatoid diseases has filed for an initial public offering.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Exagen Diagnostics Inc. recently filed its registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Exagen President and CEO Ron Rocca says the company has to wait for around three weeks and then officials will visit with bankers and investors.

Exagen uses software to identify key genomic biomarkers to better diagnose and treat disease. It released its first lupus test in January 2012.

Launched in 2002, the company has raised about $40 million in venture capital, including about $6 million from Sun Mountain Capital in Santa Fe.

Ruidoso Downs Announces Strict New Track Policies - The Associated Press

Track officials at Ruidoso Downs have announced strict new policies to ensure integrity during next year's horse racing season.

Tuesday's announcement comes after the recent arrest of a jockey at the southern New Mexico track for allegedly using an electronic device to make his horse run faster.

Four horses tested positive in July 2013 at Ruidoso Downs for a prohibited drug that's an ingredient of Viagra.

Track chairman R.D. Hubbard says all horses must be on the grounds in the track barn area 10 days before running in the trials of each of the Triple Crown futurities and derbies run during the 2015 season.

The track also will install new surveillance cameras at the stable gates along with barns and stalls of the 20 qualifiers to the futurities and derbies.

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