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Southwestern Songbird To Retain Protected Status, NM Utility Wants Rates Reconsidered

Dec 28, 2017

Agency: Southwestern Songbird To Retain Protected StatusThe Associated Press

A federal agency says a migratory songbird that breeds in vegetation along rivers and streams in Arizona and New Mexico will remain an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's announcement Thursday says the Southwestern willow flycatcher will keep the protected status following a review of a 2015 petition in which industry groups argued the bird isn't a valid subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement says an "exhaustive review" of scientific information reached the conclusion that the flycatcher is a protectable subspecies.

It also says some flycatcher populations "have made considerable progress toward recovery" but that threats still exist and warrant protection.

A 2012 assessment estimated a population of only 1,629 breeding territories. Those are places where a male sings to attract a mate.

New Mexico Utility Wants Regulators To Reconsider RatesThe Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider wants state regulators to reconsider a recent decision that allows a rate increase for customers but limits the amount of money the utility can recoup on upgrades at a coal-fired power plant.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico filed the request Thursday, saying an agreement reached in May with other stakeholders sets a better path forward as the company transitions away from coal.

If the Public Regulation Commission doesn't approve the settlement agreement, the utility warned there could be legal action.

Utility officials claim the order issued last week by the commission muddies the regulatory waters.

One group that opposes the settlement, New Energy Economy, said the utility has failed to convince commissioners that investments in the coal plant are prudent.

Family Sues New Mexico Police Over Civil Rights ViolationsThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety is being sued by a Grants family who claims officers used excessive force while searching for an escaped prisoner.

Lawyer Adam Flores is representing the family. He tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that his clients were victims of a massive, misguided show of police power.

The lawsuit was filed last week in state district court. It claims officers entered the subdivision where Rueben Olveda was hosting a barbecue in celebration of his 21st birthday in June.

The complaint states the people in Olveda's home were ordered outside while officers pointed guns at them. They were handcuffed while the home was ransacked.

The agency declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Police finally recaptured the prisoner several days later. He had no connection to the family.

New Mexico Considers New Nominating System For RegentsAssociated Press

New Mexico would change the selection process for regents who oversee the state's public universities and flagship medical center under a newly proposed constitutional amendment.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn and Republican Sen. Mark Moores said Tuesday that they hope to ensure a broader initial search for qualified candidates to oversee the state's major public universities by creating a bipartisan nomination committee. The committee would provide a list of candidates for the governor to choose from when nominating university regents.

The senators say the new system would diffuse frequent stalemates as the Legislature considers political appointments by the governor to regent boards.

New Mexico's public university system is wrestling with declining enrollment and steep cuts in state funding.

If approved by lawmakers, voters would decide on the amendment in November 2018.

New Mexico Off List Of Top 10 States For Overdose DeathsAssociated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that New Mexico has fallen off of the list of top 10 states for fatal overdoses.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the state was among the top 10 for two consecutive years, but fell to 12th for 2016 according to CDC data posted last week.

In 2014, the CDC said New Mexico had the second-highest drug overdose death rate in the country with 547 deaths reported. In 2015, the state rank was eighth.

In 2016, that number dropped to 497 deaths, or a rate of 25.2 per 100,000 population.

That’s still higher than the national average, but the CDC says the East Coast is seeing a surge in overdose deaths and that pushed New Mexico out of the top 10 list.

Family Sues New Mexico Police Over Civil Rights ViolationsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety is being sued by a Grants family who claims officers used excessive force while searching for an escaped prisoner.

Lawyer Adam Flores is representing the family. He tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that his clients were victims of a massive, misguided show of police power.

The lawsuit was filed last week in state district court. It claims officers entered the subdivision where Rueben Olveda was hosting a barbecue in celebration of his 21st birthday in June.

The complaint states the people in Olveda's home were ordered outside while officers pointed guns at them. They were handcuffed while the home was ransacked.

The agency declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Police finally recaptured the prisoner several days later. He had no connection to the family.

Roswell Police Identify Suspect In Deadly ShootingAssociated Press

Roswell police have identified the man who was fatally shot by officers after he opened fire while barricaded inside a shed.

Authorities say they were serving a warrant for 46-year-old James Alan Berrones on Tuesday morning in connection with a domestic violence incident that happened hours earlier at his ex-girlfriend's apartment.

Berrones was accused of arguing with the woman, pointing a handgun at her, wrestling her to the ground and hitting her in the face with the gun. Authorities say he allegedly threated to kill the woman if she called police.

The warrant that police were attempting to serve included charges of aggravated battery and assault against a household member, intimidation of a witness and felon in possession of a firearm.

The shooting is being investigated by multiple agencies.

Navajo Officials Remember Female Judge As Role ModelAssociated Press

Navajo Nation officials say Marie Roanhorse Neswood, the first woman to be confirmed decades ago as a tribal district court judge, has died. She was 85.

Officials said Neswood, who was originally from the Navajo community of Crystal in western New Mexico, died Sunday. They did not immediately have any details about the cause of death.

Navajo Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said Wednesday that Neswood represented her community and the rest of the tribe with dignity and pride during her time on the court and as a member of the Tribal Council.

Neswood was a member of the judicial branch from 1976 to 1989.

She also worked for the Office of the Chief Prosecutor and the Navajo police department. She was elected to the council in 1991.

A funeral Mass was scheduled for Friday in St. Michaels, Arizona.

Court Sides With New Mexico Officer In Minivan ShootingAssociated Press

A federal appeals court has sided with a former New Mexico police officer, denying claims that he violated the rights of a woman and her children when he shot at their minivan as they fled.

The ruling came Wednesday in the case of Oriana Farrell, who was pulled over for speeding and leading officers on a high-speed pursuit through Taos in 2013.

Farrell was originally charged with aggravated fleeing, child abuse and drug paraphernalia possession but ended up reaching a plea agreement. She was sentenced to probation and community service.

The appeals court found that Elias Montoya, the officer who fired at the van, should have been granted summary judgment by a lower court.

Montoya argued he had qualified immunity, which shields public officials from legal actions unless their conduct was unreasonable in light of clearly established law.

New Mexico Woman Accused Of Stealing Patients' MoneyAssociated Press

State prosecutors say a former business office manager at an Albuquerque rehabilitation center is accused of using her position to steal thousands of dollars from three elderly patients at the facility.

Court records show Leanne Bennett was indicted by a grand jury this week on three counts of exploiting a resident's property and numerous charges related to the unauthorized use of debit cards.

Investigators say Bennett is accused of gaining access to one resident's checking account and the debit cards of two other residents. She allegedly wrote several checks to herself and made multiple withdrawals.

Defense attorney John Samore described Bennett as a good woman and said he had not yet seen any of the evidence against his client.

According to the indictment, the charges stem from 2012 and 2013.

'Santa Fake' Filming In New MexicoAssociated Press

Filming of the feature "Santa Fake" is underway in New Mexico and will continue through mid-January.

State Film Office Director Nick Maniatis said Wednesday that even during the holiday season, New Mexico's film industry is at work.

The production will employ about 45 New Mexico crew members, more than a dozen principal actors from the state and about 150 background talent.

Written and directed by Julie Burris of Santa Fe, the film stars Damian McGinty and Heather Morris from the television series "Glee."

The rest of the cast includes Tony Amendola, Soledad St. Hilaire, Pancho Moler, Judd Nelson, Jeff Fahey, John Rhys-Davies and Gary Farmer.

The film follows character Pat Keeley as he's chased by criminals and the law from New York to New Mexico, where he uncovers that Santa might not be fake at all.

Police Say Body Found In Four Hills Area Was Decapitated Associated Press

Police in Albuquerque say the body found in the Four Hills area is of a woman who was decapitated.

Police say two neighbors walking their dogs Saturday morning found the body in an arroyo behind some homes.

Police were initially unable to identify the victim or the gender, saying massive injuries to the body were making it difficult.

Investigators have found the woman's identity, but police say they won't name her until the family has been notified.

Area residents say the trail near where the body was found is a popular hiking spot and is typically busy.

Police say no suspects have been arrested and no additional details about the case were available.

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