Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

Oct 29, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has removed his name from consideration for a U.S. District Court seat in New Mexico after two Democratic state senators withdrew their support.The Albuquerque Journal reports that Magistrate Judge Kevin Sweazea announced the decision in a letter to the White House last week.Sweazea says Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich withdrew their support despite having submitted his name to President Donald Trump as a potential nominee.Staff members for both Udall and Heinrich said Sweazea's confirmation would face serious hurdles in the Senate and that they are working to find other qualified candidates.Sweazea says the two-year process also "adversely affected" his willingness to take on the job, instead he plans to continue as a magistrate judge. 


CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — A project aiming to stop a defunct brine well in southeastern New Mexico from collapsing is facing an estimated $9 million shortfall.The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports New Mexico Energy Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said last week the anticipated budget shortfall for the remediation of the Carlsbad Brine Well is $8.9 million. She says the cost of the project rose during the engineering and design work.The project, which would fill a 400-foot (122-meter) underground cavity below the intersection of U.S Highways 285 and 62/180, was first estimated to cost $43 million.A collapse could interrupt a main thoroughfare for New Mexico's oil industry while also damaging the Carlsbad Irrigation District and train tracks.Experts say a collapse could cost as much as $1 billion in damages, litigation and loss of life.


ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — A former New Mexico State Police officer charged with drunken driving wants a 911 call related to her arrest tossed out.KRQE-TV reports an attorney for Jessica Turner said in recently filed court documents the 911 caller is unreliable because he never left his name, and incorrectly identified Turner as a man.Otero County deputies say they found Turner slumped over the wheel in February 2018 after receiving a call about a truck on Highway 82. The caller told police the driver almost hit him.A police report says there was a smell of alcohol in the truck and she performed poorly on a sobriety test.She resigned from New Mexico State Police a few months later.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico has developed a proposed final rule for regulating the hemp industry and it wants the public to weigh in.The first meeting on the proposal is set for Tuesday in Santa Fe. Subsequent meetings are planned in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.An emergency rule regulating the extraction, manufacturing and transportation of hemp and products containing hemp went into effect in August to protect public health and safety until a final rule was adopted.The proposed final rule includes some minor changes.Officials say it will likely be adopted during a hearing in early December.The state Agriculture Department has issued 400 licenses to grow hemp since the crop was legalized. Officials say that means nearly 11 square miles (over 28 square kilometers) in the state are dedicated to hemp production.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Three school board members in a tiny Navajo community in New Mexico are facing federal charges amid accusations they claimed thousands of dollars in travel reimbursements for meetings that did not occur or that the trio did not attend.An indictment filed against Hector Guerro, Bucky Apache and Steven Apache, of the Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation, includes charges of federal program theft and conspiracy.Prosecutors say in court documents that the men presented falsified receipts, meetings agendas and other documents to receive travel money.Authorities say the district receives millions of dollars in federal funding from the Bureau of Indian Education and Indian Health Service.Attorneys for the men did not immediately respond to voicemails requesting comment.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's governor is urging federal immigration authorities to open an investigation of conditions at a privately-managed processing center where Cuban migrants reportedly have attempted to kill themselves.The office of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released letters Monday calling for an internal investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of conditions at the Otero County Processing Center in southern New Mexico.Lujan Grisham is requesting a probe by ICE's inspector general and urged acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to intervene. She describes signs of cruel conditions and despair at the processing center 30 miles (20 kilometers) north of the U.S. border with Mexico at El Paso, Texas.She says ICE's internal watchdog found egregious problems with unannounced visits last year to holding facilities in four other states.


EL PASO, Texas (AP) — U.S. immigration authorities are testing a program to speed up reviews of asylum claims at a Texas Border Patrol station, offering a glimpse of how the Trump administration may enforce its partial asylum ban.A Homeland Security Department official says the pilot project — called the "Prompt Asylum Case Review" system, began Oct. 7 in El Paso, Texas, with a goal of having a decision by an immigration judge within 10 days. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the program have not been made public.The rollout has not been publicly announced, leading to complaints by attorneys that they are being deprived access to clients and left in the dark. U.S. authorities insist they will have access. Spagat reported from San Diego.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Espanola man has been arrested in the death of a 5-year-old girl whose body was found in the Rio Grande.The FBI says Malcolm Torres was arrested without incident Sunday in Pojoaque Pueblo. He's been indicted on a second-degree murder charge.The remains of Renezmae Caldaza were found in Sept. 11 following an investigation that included more than 100 interviews, as well as searches within Espanola and along two miles of the river.The girl with long, dark hair and brown eyes was seen days earlier in her family's yard in Espanola wearing shorts and a Disney "Frozen" shirt.Torres is expected to have an initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.It was unclear whether Torres has an attorney. No court documents have been posted publicly in the case. This story has been corrected to show the girl's last name is Caldaza.