Albuquerque, New Mexico (CNN)Two Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officers will face first-degree murder charges in last year’s shooting of a homeless man in the hills above the city, a prosecutor announced Monday.
Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez were ordered to appear at a preliminary hearing, the date of which has not yet been set, said District Attorney Kari Brandenburg of New Mexico’s Second Judicial Circuit.
Sandy and Perez are accused of killing James Boyd in March. The 38-year-old homeless man spent the night before his shooting in a shelter, but when the shelter closed for the winter, Boyd tried to camp in the hills above the city, officials said.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella was found guilty Friday on both counts - a civil rights charge for making an unconstitutional arrest of a motorist and a firearms charge for brandishing a gun during the crime - that he faced in a federal court trial in Albuquerque.
In finding Rodella guilty, the jury determined that the sheriff used unreasonable force, unlawfully arrested [the victim, Michael] Tafoya and used a dangerous weapon.
Tafoya, in police reports and at trial, maintained that Rodella and his son provoked what amounted to a road-rage incident by first tailgating him, then making “come on” motion as if they wanted to fight. Tafoya sped off but was trapped after he pulled into a driveway.
He testified he was begging for his life as an armed man who turned out to be Rodella wrestled with him and Rodella Jr. dragged him out of his car and threw him to the ground. Tafoya said that when Rodella Jr. told him the older man with a gun was the sheriff and Tafoya asked to see his badge, Rodella said, “Here’s my badge, mother(expletive)” and shoved the badge into Tafoya’s face. Tafoya was arrested and charged but his case was dismissed.
Helping back up Tafoya’s account were three other drivers who testified about intimidating encounters with the sheriff at traffic stops, including two that started with Rodella tailgating and one where the sheriff allegedly threw his badge at the driver.
Also, a jogger who witnessed part of the pursuit involving Tafoya confirmed that during the chase, Tafoya stopped and asked the jogger through his car window to call police. The same witness did say that the end of the pursuit, Tafoya nearly struck Rodella while backing up.
Read the rest here: Rio Arriba Sheriff Tommy Rodella Found Guilty on Both Counts
Attitude problem? What attitude problem?
Some members of the Rodella family were decked out in black shirts that gave their view of the proceedings Friday as Rio Arriba County Sheriff “Tommy” Rodella and his son appeared in handcuffs in federal court to answer to criminal civil rights charges.
“When Injustice Becomes Law Rebellion Becomes Duty” was the message printed across the back as the controversial sheriff and his son pleaded not guilty to charges that they violated the civil rights of a 26-year-old Española man during a high-speed chase, confrontation and arrest last March.
It’s not quite over. The Rodella defense now looks to implicate the US Attorney who convicted them. (From the first link:)
Rodella, 52, faces up to 17 years in prison.
Rodella’s lawyers have filed a “Hyde Amendment” claim of prosecutorial misconduct and allege that U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez has a “vendetta” against Rodella because the sheriff has refused to deputize U.S. Forest Service agents to enforce state law in Rio Arriba County.
Not the same ‘Hyde Amendment’ prohibiting US money being spent on abortions.
When the influx of young Central American migrants to the border erupted as a crisis this summer, President Obama correctly called it a humanitarian emergency. He promised that the administration’s response would combine compassion with respect for the law.
But the treatment of hundreds of these migrants in a makeshift detention center in Artesia, N.M., is appalling evidence that this promise was empty, according a lawsuit filed Friday in Federal District Court by a coalition of civil-rights organizations.
The lawsuit claims that the administration has rigged the system so that vulnerable women and children who plead for asylum can’t get it. It says the immigrant detention center in Artesia is a middle-of-nowhere prison in the desert, 200 miles from the nearest big city, that short-circuits legal access and due process for the sake of swift and sure deportations. Its main purpose, the suit says, is to send a stern warning to would-be immigrants in Central America — to reinforce what the homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, said when the crisis was at its peak: “We will send you back.”
Read the rest of this editorial piece here: At an Immigrant Detention Center, Due Process Denied.
Here’s a closer look at the challenges of delivering legal services in the middle of nowhere: Reporter’s notebook: Dispute simmers at border detention center over … crayons
It’s hard to believe — given the political bantering, the economic hardships and the humanitarian crisis all swirling around the immigration issue — that crayons are cause for distress. “Crayon-gate” was the word two volunteer attorneys used to describe their day last week at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center here, about 70 miles from the U-S Mexico border.
Lawyers doing pro bono work for the detained families spend long days inside the secure center working with mothers who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. After a day’s work, they gather at a local church hall to compare notes and share stories. Going around the table on Monday, Aug. 18, they introduced themselves and offered a one-word characterization of their day.
Nat Damren of Idaho said “crayons” made his day.
There is a serious reason for the child’s play. Attorneys say the kiddie swag helps amuse the children while they counsel their moms. Lichter said there is no child care for the legal sessions. “So not only do I as a lawyer have to deal with a situation where the woman I’m interviewing is minding her three-year-old child and the seven-year-old is over there and the thirteen-year-old, who’s causing trouble back in the corner and [I’m] trying to talk to her about how many times and how often did your husband assault you,” she said, “but we have women who are appearing in interviews before asylum officers where they’re not about to talk about the fact that the gangs threatened to kill their children while their children are in the room.”
Read the rest of this article here.
The Constitution says these immigrants have the right to a lawyer, but not to have one paid for by the government, nor to have one transported to the middle of nowhere to see them. What good is the Constitution if the rights outlined in it are not accessible?
A northern New Mexico sheriff was arrested Friday on charges he cornered a driver at a dead end, threatened him with a silver revolver as the driver begged not to be shot and had him falsely charged with assault.
U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez announced Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella, who has had brushes with scandal throughout his career, and his son, Thomas Jr., were arrested by FBI agents at their Espanola homes in the March confrontation that left the driver injured. Authorities didn’t detail the injuries.
An indictment says the men engaged “in a high-speed pursuit and unreasonable seizure” of the driver, identified in the court papers only as M.T. The sheriff was not in uniform when he jumped out of his Jeep SUV armed with a silver revolver, court papers said.
The driver was dragged from his car and thrown into the dirt, according to the papers. Thomas Rodella Jr., then identified his father as sheriff.
As a state police officer, Rodella was disciplined for marijuana use, improper use of a weapon, falsifying official reports, abusing sick leave and using his position for personal gain. He also was suspended for 30 days for firing at a deer decoy that game officers had set up to catch poachers.
Rodella served in the state police from 1982 until retiring in 1995 on a disability pension.
In the latest case, FBI agents raided Rodella’s home in June just hours after he lost the Democratic nomination for Rio Arriba County sheriff to challenger James Lujan by 200 votes. Lujan was a deputy Rodella had fired.
Read the rest here: FBI: Sheriff, Son Arrested After Assaulting Driver
Here are some more details from the Albuquerque Journal:
M.T. then drove away and the chase began again, the indictment charges. The second time the Rodellas stopped the man, Sheriff Rodella, in uniform, jumped into M.T.’s car brandishing a silver revolver and assaulted the man.
The indictment charges the younger Rodella dragged the man out of his car.
Sheriff Rodella had other deputies comes to the scene and book him into the Rio Arriba Detention Center. The indictment charges that both Rodellas made false representations that the man had attempted to injure Sheriff Rodella.
The indictment also charges both men with falsifying records to charge M.T. and cover up what occurred.
They are charged with conspiracy against the free exercise of civil rights, deprivation of rights, brandishing a firearm and two counts of falsification of documents.
The Journal also posted the indictment:
Albuquerque TV station KOB covers news of the sheriff’s release:
Tommy Rodella to remain Rio Arriba Co. sheriff, but can’t carry weapon
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella will remain sheriff but will not be allowed to carry a weapon as part of the stipulation of his release. Rodella and his son were released from federal custody Friday.
Rodella and his son each face 10 or more years in federal prison if convicted.
There is some video at that link, and links to earlier coverage by KOB.
This past weekend we ended up in tiny Lincoln, New Mexico for their annual Billy the Kid Days festival (If you get a chance, go. It’s a lot of fun and the people there are some of New Mexico’s nicest). The former county seat of Lincoln County, Lincoln and the surrounding communities are home base for New Mexico’s Republican Party.
Safely conservative ground, Democrats did not even field a candidate in recent primaries in the state house race in District 56, for county clerk, county treasurer or any of the three local magistrate judge races.
So it struck us as odd that the campaign signs and giveaways for Dianna Duran’s re-election for secretary of state never mentioned that she is one of the Republican Party’s two highest-ranking statewide officials.
When they started explaining why her campaign didn’t want to be identified with the Republican Party, we hit record.
Read the article and listen to the second Soundcloud at this link: Dianna Duran’s Campaign Painted Over ‘Republican’ on Her Signs. Her Volunteers Tell Us Why They Don’t Want Anyone to Know She’s From the GOP It’s short. Don’t miss the last paragraph.
Jerome Eskeets’s last sight before he fell asleep on a soiled mattress late on Friday, on an empty lot speckled by shards of liquor bottles and discarded syringes, was the stars that glistened up above — “a beautiful thing,” he recalled this week, drunk, already, at 9:30 a.m. A cousin lay next to him that night, their bodies warmed by the cheap vodka they had shared. It had been “a good night,” Mr. Eskeets said, until he felt a dull pain on the bridge of his nose, a punch by one of the masked assailants that surrounded them.
“Cowards,” Mr. Eskeets exclaimed on Tuesday as he stood by the scene of the crime.
The assailants kicked and beat them, Mr. Eskeets said, using their hands and whatever else they could find — a metal pipe, wooden sticks, cinder blocks. Mr. Eskeets eventually broke free and ran away. His cousin, whose name he said was Al Gorman, and another homeless man he knew only as Cowboy, ended up dead. The police said they had both been disfigured beyond recognition by the thrashing, which included having their heads smashed repeatedly with the cinder blocks.
Mr. Eskeets — who said he was Navajo, like the men killed over the weekend — said that the teenagers had set upon him once before, last week or maybe the prior week, but that he had threatened them with an empty beer bottle and they had fled.
“I never told no one because no one cares,” he said flatly.
Since the attack, Mr. Eskeets has struggled to make sense of what happened. “Those boys knew me,” he said, his eyes filling with tears. “They called me Skeets.”
Read the New York Times article here: Violent Attacks on Homeless in Albuquerque Expose City’s Ills
A state senator wants to make the homeless a protected class, and this sort of crime a hate crime.
Were the deadly beatings of two homeless men in Albuquerque a hate crime?
Under federal law, the answer is no. That’s true for most states, too.
But one state senator thinks New Mexico should step up and be a leader.
It’s state Sen. Bill O’Neill’s personal story that makes what happened over the weekend so powerful for him.
In New Mexico, crimes targeting the homeless are not considered hate crimes.
“We as a state can make a real strong declaration that our homeless people are not to be targeted,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill says they should be — and it comes from a personal place.
He used to volunteer at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center. That’s where he made a dear friend.
“This is Frank Ellis,” he said, holding a picture of a man he knew decades ago. “Man, he would come into the shelter just all bruised and battered.”
“He was my friend,” he said.
Last year, O’Neill’s homeless hate crime legislation passed two bipartisan committees unanimously, but it never made the floor for a vote.
This year, with Frank and the murders of Thompson and Gorman in mind, he plans to introduce it again.
There’s video at the link too.
The President of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, and other Navajo leaders met with the Mayor of Albuquerque, Richard Berry, to discuss the beating deaths.
Navajo Nation leaders met with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry on Thursday to discuss the beating deaths of two homeless men last Saturday.
The tribe has confirmed both of the victims, Al Gorman of Shiprock and Kee Thompson of Church Rock, were Navajo.
Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, calls it a senseless crime.
Prosecutors plan to try the 15 and 16-year-old suspects, Gilbert Tafoya and Nathaniel Carrillo, as adults. The third teen, Alex Rios, is 18.
Here’s a press release from President Shelly.
The teens allegedly attacked more than 50 other homeless people in the Albuquerque area.
The mom and two teenage boys had already journeyed thousands of miles from El Salvador to the U.S.-Mexico border. They had been apprehended by Border Patrol agents, transported from detention center to detention center.
Then, 10 days after they left San Salvador, they were brought here, to a small room in Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on a July afternoon in Las Cruces.
Here, they meet with a woman who volunteered at the church to help get the family to relatives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Cómo está?” The volunteer asked.
“Bien,” the older boy replied quietly.
Lawyers visit twice a day to ensure the migrants know their rights — they are free to travel to their families elsewhere in the country, but they must report for court hearings. Bilingual priests are on hand as well to act as counselors.
“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “They’re drained with the atrocities taking place in Central America, on the road.”
After their meal, the migrants filed into rooms to collect hygiene supplies, diapers, clothes and suitcases to store their new belongings. Mothers tried pants and bras on over their clothes, before heading to collect donated hygiene products and towels to shower. Children can choose one toy from a large box of stuffed animals. Another basket holds dozens of donated fake gold earrings for the moms.
They’ve been a hit, volunteer Toni Martinez said.
“It’s the little things they need to help them out, just to make them feel like women,” she said.
Down the hall, volunteers sat at four tables, each with a laptop, cell phone and box of tissues. Migrants visited with the volunteers to call their families across the country and book bus, train and plane tickets there. The relatives will pay for the tickets, so the mode of transportation depends on how much they can spare. Volunteers drive the migrants to the station and the El Paso airport, even escorting them through security.
Looks like they’re using unmarked vehicles to move them around.
Read the whole article here: Las Cruces Church Provides Cot, Clothes, Compassion to About 200 Migrants - Las Cruces Sun-News
But it heard nothing but silence from at least seven activists who had signed up to speak — some of whom turned their backs rather than address the civic leaders. They were ejected from the council chambers, cited for criminal trespass and banned from council meetings for 90 days. That penalty seemed to surprise at least some of the council members, however, and may be altered.
Sooooo…… who wants to be the defending attorney for the city of Albuquerque? any takers? constitutional lawyers? crickets?
Earlier in the meeting, the first member of the public at the lectern had signed up to speak on a minimum wage ordinance. Wearing a red shirt, Silvio Dell’Angela stood silently for more than a minute as, on an overhead projector, he displayed a statement saying he was “outraged” that the council’s new rules curtailed the public’s right to “protest peacefully.”
One of his neighbors was fatally shot by Albuquerque police in 2010.
As a security officer came to escort him out of the council chamber, Dell’Angela said, “I still have 36 seconds.”
oh boy…. silence is golden?
Councilor Rey Garduño asked Sanchez why speakers could not remain silent during their allotted two minutes. Because it violates the rules of decorum, Sanchez said.
Mike Gomez, whose son Alan was killed by police, put his son’s picture on the overhead projector and said, “I love you. I miss you a lot.” Then he turned his back on the dais.
When asked to address the council, he said, “You’re not worth addressing.” He added, “Blood is on your hands. … [Born] April 25, 1989, and died May 10, 2011.” Then he raised his fists in the air, and security escorted him out.
The Justice Department cited the killing of Gomez’s son as an example of officers violating police policy that permits deadly force only where there is an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to officers or members of the public. Gomez was not a threat because he was unarmed, the Justice Department said
I have to say - this is a great example of ‘civil disobedience’ in its purest form - however - no one, and I mean no one, should be sanctioned for utilizing their constitutional right to speak criticism to government with silence.
New Mexico governor Susana Martinez has made it very clear that she holds all opposition and dissent in absolute contempt.
In the words of Valcav Havel, “They cannot tell the difference between dissent and naked terrorism.”
The sun hasn’t yet risen when the first children arrive.
Most are middle and high school students, beginning the bleary-eyed walk just after 6 a.m. Then come the youngsters, the elementary school children, accompanied by mothers and fathers and tías and tíos.
The families walk through the opening in the wall, running indefinitely in either direction, and up to a small patio and the Columbus Port of Entry.
The parents help their students slip on backpacks, zip up coats and plant kisses on little cheeks, then they send their children off to the United States of America.
School district staff are not allowed to cross into Mexico for work, and phones are a “hit or miss” with Palomas parents, Chavez said. School staff often aren’t notified when phone numbers change, and email is out of the question while Internet penetration remains slim across the border.
Skype helps fill that communication gap.
Columbus Elementary dual-language teacher Ricardo Gutierrez owns a restaurant in Palomas. So last May, the school held a conference with parents at his restaurant via video chat. About 80 Palomas families gathered around a TV for the one-hour group meeting.
The school expanded the technology further in January, holding individual 10-minute parent-teacher conferences via Skype. Educators filled more than 80 parents in on their students’ behavior, progress, homework and more.
Read the whole article and see more photos here: New Technology Bridges US-Mexico Border at Columbus School - Las Cruces Sun-News