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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT

  • Border Patrol agent impersonator in New Mexico gets prison

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A man in New Mexico has been sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison for impersonating a Border Patrol agent. Prosecutors say 45-year-old James Christopher Benvie received a 21-month prison term after being convicted in the case in March. Court records show Benvie was a leader and spokesperson for a group of vigilantes who camped at the border in Dona Ana County. Authorities say many members of the group wore badges, camouflage and other military-style clothing, often covered their faces with masks, and carried pistols and assault rifles. They say Benvie misrepresented himself as a Border Patrol agent in April 2019 when stopping and interrogating immigrants he suspected of crossing into the country illegally.  

  • New Mexico Supreme Court seeks members for equity commission

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court is looking for people to serve on a newly created commission on equity and justice. An order issued Monday formally established the commission and outlined the framework for its membership. The panel will study issues related to bias and inequities in the state justice system and promote diversity among judges and judicial employees. In addition to state and local judges, voting members will include representatives from the University of New Mexico law school, attorneys, community advocates and one state lawmaker. Representatives from more than two dozen legal organizations also will be invited to participate on the commission.

  • New Mexico court upholds former officer's murder conviction

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a former Silver City police officer in the killing of his estranged wife amid a contentious divorce and child-custody case. The court's ruling Monday said the trial court properly allowed admission of hearsay statements from victim Cassy Farrington concerning Bradley Scott Farrington because there was evidence that he killed her to make her unavailable as a witness. The ruling cited Bradley Farrington's extensive history of domestic violence, his exploitation of his status as a police officer, and the couple's acrimonious divorce and custody proceedings. The victim, a 23-year-old mother of two, was found dead in her Silver City home in 2014.

  • Business mandates mount as New Mexico deals with virus surge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has unveiled more requirements for businesses after a string of record-breaking daily case counts prompted renewed restrictions just last week. Starting Friday, restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms and other businesses must close for two weeks if they have more than four separate outbreaks among employees within a 14-day period. The state is now publishing a watch list of businesses that have had two or more outbreaks. Sandia National Laboratories is among the businesses being investigated by the state, but lab officials say the majority of infections among workers were acquired offsite and outside of work hours.

  • Trump administration adds criminal disqualifiers to asylum

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration says asylum-seekers will lose their bids if they are convicted of driving under the influence or committing crimes to support gangs. The rule that takes effect Nov. 20 is the latest in a slew of measures under President Donald Trump to make asylum more difficult to obtain. The immediate impact will be muted by a temporary pandemic-related ban on asylum introduced in March that calls for people who enter the country illegally to be immediately expelled on public health grounds.

  • New Mexico high court OKs rule changes on pretrial detention

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has approved rule changes that court officials say will enhance public safety by helping prosecutors assess whether certain felony defendants are dangerous and should be kept in jail while awaiting trial. The Administrative Office of the Courts said the justices approved the changes last week. A committee of representatives from all three branches of state government had recommended the state revise the justice system's rules for implementing a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016. The changes include permitting judges to delay certain defendants' initial pretrial release to give prosecutors more time to determine whether pretrial detention is warranted.

  • Window opens for Virgin Galactic's final round of testing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The window opens later this week for the final round of testing of Virgin Galactic's rocket-powered spacecraft as the company inches toward commercial flights. Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses updated New Mexico lawmakers on the progress during a meeting Monday. The space tourism company already has done nine flights from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, including two glide flights by the spaceship. Moses says the upcoming test will mark the third space flight for Virgin Galactic and the first from New Mexico. Two pilots will crew the flight and cargo including several research projects will be carried in the cabin.

  • Employees unionize at upstart Meow Wolf arts venue

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Workers at a popular immersive arts entertainment project have approved the formation of a labor union under the Communications Workers of America umbrella. Meow Wolf employee Michael Wilson said Tuesday that the move to unionize was approved by a majority of 130 eligible, rank-and-file employees by electronic balloting. Meow Wolf coined a new brand of family entertainment with its "House of Eternal Return" exhibition in Santa Fe that is currently idled by a statewide pandemic health order. Meow Wolf laid off just over 200 workers in April but has plans to expand into Las Vegas and Denver next year. Employees there are not covered by the union.