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New Mexico News This Week
In this week’s Chile Street:
Police arrest a man they say is the architect of a plot to shoot at the homes of Democratic leaders and are investigating his campaign finances for links to drug money
Governor seeks to legally protect abortion rights in New Mexico
Several gun-related bills to be introduced this legislative session, some that battle governor’s plans for an assault weapons ban
Alec Baldwin, armorer face involuntary manslaughter charge in 'Rust' shooting
Suspect tied to deadly UNM shooting pleads guilty as part of plea agreement
And much, much more!
Good morning! Today is Friday, Jan. 20. Here’s a look at the past week in New Mexico news.
Failed GOP candidate charged in connection to shootings at Dem politicians’ homes; police investigating source of campaign contributions
A traffic stop in early January led police to 893 fentanyl pills, two firearms and the arrest of a man wanted on a misdemeanor stalking charge. Albuquerque police say it also helped lead them to 39-year-old Solomon Pena, a 2022 Republican candidate for the New Mexico House who police suspect is the architect of a plan to shoot at the homes of several elected Democratic officials, Ryan Lowery reported for Source New Mexico.
The afternoon of Jan. 3, a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy stopped a car driven by 21-year-old Jose L. Trujillo in Albuquerque’s South Valley. The reason for the stop, according to a sworn affidavit filed in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, was that the silver Nissan Maxima did not have a current registration sticker on its license plate. Though driven by Trujillo, the vehicle was registered to Pena.
Police soon learned that Trujillo had an active warrant for his arrest, and as deputies searched the vehicle, they found the pills, believed to be counterfeit oxycodone made using fentanyl, according to the affidavit. In the trunk of the car, police said they located an AR-15 pistol and a Glock 17 with a drum-style magazine.
Trujillo was charged with a felony count of trafficking controlled substances and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Pena was arrested on charges related to the shootings following a SWAT standoff Monday afternoon near 14th and Coal in downtown Albuquerque. He faces 14 felonies and one misdemeanor.
Pena sought election to represent House District 14 as a Republican last year, but lost to Democrat Miguel Garcia in a 74% to 26% landslide. D14 includes some of southern Albuquerque and the South Valley.
An apparent Trump supporter and election denier on his social media feed, Pena never conceded his own electoral loss last year, contending that the system was rigged.
Throughout his campaign for D14, one of Pena’s top financial contributors was Jose Trujillo, campaign finance reports show.
Trujillo, whose occupation is listed as “cashier,” made several donations throughout the primary election totaling $5,100. The donations were made on six separate occasions, often just days apart. Trujillo made only one $55 donation during the general election.
Albuquerque police on Thursday announced an investigation into those campaign contributes is underway. Police are also investigating contributions made by Trujillo’s mother, Melanie Griego, who donated $4,000 to the campaign. The combined contributions represent nearly 40% of the money raised by Pena’s campaign.
“Detectives are working with other law enforcement agencies to determine whether the money for the campaign contributions was generated from narcotics trafficking, and whether campaign laws were violated,” APD said in a news release.
Read Lowery’s story here (no paywall): sourcenm.com/2023/01/17/failed-gop-candidate-for-nm-house-charged-in-connection-to-shootings-at-dem-politicians-homes/
Lujan Grisham calls on N.M. lawmakers to legally protect abortion rights during State of the State
Cheers filled the House chambers in Santa Fe on Tuesday afternoon when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she wants to expand protections for abortion services and care in the state. Of course not everyone stood to applaud and celebrate. Republicans facing the governor from the one side of where she stood at the dais didn’t clap much during her first State of the State since winning re-election in November, Shaun Griswold of Source New Mexico reported.
Read the story here (no paywall): sourcenm.com/2023/01/18/n-m-governor-calls-on-lawmakers-to-legally-protect-abortion-rights-during-state-of-the-state/
State attorney general to push back against county abortion bans
Attorney General Raul Torrez is ready to take action against New Mexico towns with abortion bans. “There shouldn’t be any misunderstanding, the right to reproductive health care is protected in this state,” says Torrez. “My office is prepared to defend that right and we are going to do everything that we can to guide local governments about their limitations of their authority,” KRQE-TV reported.
Read the story here (no paywall): krqe.com/news/new-mexico/state-attorney-general-to-push-back-against-county-abortion-bans/
Some hope this is the year for assault weapons ban
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s push to eliminate assault weapons in New Mexico may dominate the Legislature’s discussion on guns, but several gun-related bills have been or will be introduced in this year’s 60-day session, promising a battle royale over the role of guns in a state with a long history of gun ownership — and a searing violence problem, Robert Nott of the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Read the story here via NM Political Report (no paywall): nmpoliticalreport.com/2023/01/19/some-hope-this-is-the-year-for-assault-weapons-ban/
State employees rally in favor of telework as legislative session begins in New Mexico
The state government initially announced at the end of the year that state workers would return to the office in early January before pushing the return date out to Feb. 2. The Communications Workers of America Local 7076 is challenging the end of telework in a complaint with the labor board, citing violations of the bargaining agreement and labor law, Austin Fisher of Source NM reported.
Read the story here (no paywall): sourcenm.com/2023/01/18/n-m-state-employees-rally-in-favor-of-telework-as-legislative-session-begins/
Governor pledges $100 million to Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire recovery
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday asked lawmakers to dedicate $100 million of the state’s operating budget to help communities in northern New Mexico devastated by wildfires and subsequent flooding last year, Ryan Lowery reported for Source NM.
Read the story here (no paywall): sourcenm.com/2023/01/18/governor-pledges-100-million-to-hermits-peak-calf-canyon-fire-recovery/
N.M. government tasked with responding to climate disasters and grappling with their cause
Record oil and gas revenues soaring to what lawmakers called “once-in-history” levels brought New Mexico a more than $3.6 billion budget surplus — but the state is also spending more money in the wake of disastrous wildfires and flooding exacerbated by climate change, Danielle Prokop reported for Source NM.
Read the story here (no paywall): sourcenm.com/2023/01/18/n-m-government-tasked-with-responding-to-climate-disasters-and-grappling-with-their-cause/
DA: Baldwin, armorer to face involuntary manslaughter charge in 'Rust' shooting
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies listed a succession of failures that led to the tragic death of promising cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, a 42-year-old wife and mother of a young son, in October 2021. Now actor Alec Baldwin and the movie’s armoror will each be charged under two different sections of the state's manslaughter statute, Phaedra Haywood of the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Final decision on Albuquerque’s free bus fare program on hold, again
The fate of Albuquerque’s Zero Fares program, which allows anyone to board a bus without paying or showing a pass, will be decided at a future City Council meeting after councilors agreed Wednesday to delay a vote until next month’s meeting. This marks the fourth time the Council has deferred a vote on the matter, Ryan Lowery reported for Source NM.
Read the story here (no paywall): sourcenm.com/2023/01/19/final-decision-on-albuquerques-free-bus-fare-program-on-hold-again/
As police investigate if drug money funded Solomon Pena’s failed campaign, one top donor says she didn’t contribute
Melanie Griego is listed as having donated $4,000 to Republican Solomon Pena in his 2022 race against an incumbent Democrat to represent House District 14 in the Legislature. The problem is 39-year-old Griego said she never made those donations, Elise Kaplan of the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Suspect tied to deadly UNM shooting takes plea deal
Jonathan Smith, 19, one of three students who allegedly plotted to get revenge on NMSU basketball player Mike Peake, pleaded guilty to two charges for his alleged role in a deadly UNM campus shooting, KOB-TV reported.
Watch or read the story here (no paywall): kob.com/new-mexico/albuquerque-metro/bernco-da-suspect-in-unm-campus-shooting-takes-plea-deal/
Child hospitalized following DWI crash near Las Vegas
A Santa Rosa man is facing felony charges in connection to a rollover crash along Highway 84 about 10 miles south of Romeroville that sent a child to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, Ryan Lowery reported for the Las Vegas Optic.
Read the story here (no paywall): lasvegasoptic.com/news/crime/child-hospitalized-following-dwi-crash/article_abe356a4-9820-11ed-b5af-0fa875bcbf97.html
That’s it for now. Have a great weekend!
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