- NEW MEXICO GUN LAWS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico state Senate endorsed a red-flag gun bill Friday that has been prompted by concerns about the a mass shooting last year in El Paso, Texas, and suicide prevention efforts. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to petition a state district court to order the temporary surrender of firearms. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports new tools she says will help law enforcement prevent gun violence. Rural sheriffs oppose the Democratic-sponsored legislation, arguing that officers can already intervene in the event of mental health crisis and detain people for their own safety or who present a danger to others.
- EXCESSIVE FORCE-DEFENSE RIGHTS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A court ruling says New Mexico criminal defendants may be allowed to argue that they were trying to defend another person from excessive force by an officer. The state Court of Appeals decision in a case from Curry County overturns Sarita Jones' convictions for battery upon a peace officer and resisting or abusing a peace officer and grants her a new trial. The decision said the Clovis woman was entitled to seek a "defense of another" jury instruction because her case involved alleged excessive force directed by police at her son. The appeals court said a trial judge erroneously ruled that defendants claiming to have been defending another person couldn't cite allegedly excessive force by police.
- ETHICS COMMISSION-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's new Ethics Commission says it has received no complaints so far involving lawmakers or state officials. Agency Executive Director Jeremy Farris says the lack of complaints is probably a result of the agency's website still being new and because commissioners only have jurisdiction over cases after July 1, 2019. Farris says requirements that complaints get notarized also may be discouraging people from coming forward. Commissioner Garrey Carruthers says he hopes state lawmakers later modify the state ethics law to drop the notarization requirements. Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the commission in 2018 in the wake of a series of high profile corruption scandals involving public officials.
- FAIR PAY LAWSUIT-SETTLEMENT
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Corrections has paid its cabinet secretary $195,000 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging she was paid less than a male counterpart because she is a woman. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Thursday that Alisha Tafoya Lucero filed the lawsuit in 2013 when she was deputy warden at a state penitentiary, claiming she was paid $29 an hour while a male colleague in a similar job was paid $39 an hour. Officials say this is one of three lawsuits over violations of the Fair Pay for Women Act that the Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 applies to government employees.
- REFINERY CANCER CHEMICALS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A report has revealed that an oil refinery in southeast New Mexico is one of 10 facilities in the country releasing high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the HollyFrontier Navajo oil refinery in Artesia is emitting benzene levels four times the Environmental Protection Agency's action level, but is not violating federal law. Officials say that more than 3,000 people live within a mile of the refinery. Benzene is found in crude oil and used to manufacture plastics and pesticides. Federal health officials say prolonged exposure to the chemical can damage bone marrow, decrease red blood cells and lead to cancer.
- CHILE WARS
LEMITAR, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Chile Association wants local chili pepper farmers to become state-certified amid more competition from foreign growers. Association president Glen Duggins told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week farmers are seeing more foreign imports from as far as China or India. He says some of the imported chili peppers are sold under the New Mexico name. Meanwhile, Duggins says state farmers are moving to other more profitable crops. State officials are pressuring local farmers to get their peppers the "Certified New Mexico Chile" label by the New Mexico Chile Association. There are only five large farms that are certified out of about 20 across New Mexico.
PHOENIX (AP) — A Scottsdale man and his mother have been indicted for alleged wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Frank Capri and 68-year-old Debbie Corvo of Cave Creek are accused of orchestrating the collapse of two county music branded restaurant chains in Arizona and across the country. Court documents show Capri was arrested Wednesday and later arraigned in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. He entered a plea of not guilty. According to the Arizona Republic, Capri's company built 20 Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill restaurants beginning in 2009. The newspaper says 19 restaurants closed in about 18 months, and Capri also was behind the financial ruin of 19 Rascal Flatts restaurant projects.
- EXOTIC ANIMALS-FILMING
BELEN, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico couple is facing charges over accusations they illegally imported exotic animals, including a mountain lion and kangaroo, for film productions. Kip and Chelsey Lewis are facing multiple charges of unlawful importation of a nondomestic live animal after New Mexico Department of Game and Fish agents raided their home in December 2018. According to court documents, Chelsey Lewis altered documents for the animals, and Kip Lewis lied about the locations of the animals. Agents also found in the couple's possession a capuchin monkey, a coyote, a prairie dog, a skunk, an American alligator, and a raccoon. Their attorney, Jason Alarid, did not immediately return a message.