Tag Archives: New Mexico

Truth In Media with Ben Swann, Episode 21: New Mexico Gov. Seals Off Access To Gallup, Blocks Roads Going In and Out

The Governor of New Mexico invoked the state’s Riot Control Act as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup.


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Law Enforcement Predicts New Mexico Civil Forfeiture Reform Will Damage Police Budgets

Significant civil forfeiture reform in New Mexico went into effect on July 1, and law enforcement officials have predicted that their departments will be struggling to compensate for large cuts in their budgets due to the new law.

Before House Bill 560 was introduced and ultimately signed into law, police departments and other law enforcement agencies had the ability to seize cash, cars, luxury items, and homes with no requirement of obtaining a criminal conviction or even a criminal charge related to the items. Law enforcement officials would then turn these items over to sell at auctions. The proceeds from seized items sold at auction were used to purchase equipment and provide training. This practice has been described as “policing for profit”.

Last November, former Las Cruces, New Mexico city attorney Harry S. Connelly Jr. was heavily criticized after he was caught on video while holding a civil asset forfeiture seminar describing such items as “little goodies” and discussing excitement stemming from spotting a luxury car. “We always try to get, every once in a while, like maybe a good car,” Connelly said. “This guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new. Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.'”

[RELATED: Police Wish List Reportedly Being Used to Train Cops on What to Seize from Drug Suspects]

Connelly also admitted that he had worked with police to secure “wish list” items. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know- I’ll fight for it,” he had said. Connelly was later placed on leave and replaced by William R. Babington, Jr. as city attorney.

With the passage of HB 560, no items may be seized unless there is a criminal conviction or a guilty plea. Seized items must be placed in storage and then shipped to the state’s treasury office. Revenue collected from auctioned items will be placed in the state’s general fund rather than added to police budgets.

Farmington’s Daily Times reported that the civil forfeiture process had funded about a quarter of the Region II Narcotics Task Force’s operating budget- about $100,000 each year according to the task force’s director, Sgt. Kyle Dowdy. Dowdy said that now a plan must now be established to make up for the lost revenue, as well the consideration of a reduction in police purchases and training.

“We’re going to try not to seize,” Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said. Hebbe pointed out that the department has to cover the cost of item storage and shipment and called that provision an unfunded mandate.

Rep. Rod Montoya, (R-Farmington) said that no law enforcement agents had testified in the House to discuss consequences of the bill, while Hebbe said no police chiefs were contacted regarding to the bill’s impact. Hebbe said that he’s unsure of what impact the new law will have on police department budgets across the state. “I don’t think that they anticipated how much it’s going to hit local law enforcement, and we’re still trying to figure out how bad it’s going to hit us,” he said.

BREAKING: New Mexico Gov. Signs Bill Abolishing Civil Asset Forfeiture

By Casey Harper

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill to abolish civil asset forfeiture Friday.

She signed just before the noon deadline that would have pocket vetoed the legislation.

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where police can seize your property and keep it even if they don’t convict or charge you with a crime. Then, you must go through the difficult, and often unsuccessful process to get your property–whether it’s a vehicle, cash or your home–back from the police.

The new law makes two important changes:

1. Currently, when police seize property they can keep it even if you are innocent. Under the new law, police can still take property from you for a short period, but would need a conviction or a guilty plea in order to keep it.

2. The law changes the incentive structure for police. Under the new law, if police do get a guilty verdict and your property is forfeited, it goes to the state’s general fund rather than the police department’s budget. The difference at least adds a layer of bureaucracy and oversight between police and the funds they seize.

New Mexico’s state legislature passed the bill March 21 just hours before the session closed. If the bill had been vetoed it would likely not gotten attention again for two years because of New Mexico’s short legislative sessions.

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Student Suspended After Handing Out Standardized Testing Opt-Out Forms

Santa Fe, NM- An eighth grader said that she was suspended last week after school staff found her handing out standardized testing opt-out forms to fellow students.

Adelina Silva, a student at Capshaw Middle School in Santa Fe, told KRQE that she was handing out opt-out forms that are available on the school district’s website. Silva said that she took this action because she wanted parents of her classmates to know that there was an opportunity to opt out of the testing. “My goal here was to just let the parents know that they have the option,” she said.

The online test Silva was referring to is an assessment from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and is commonly known as the PARCC test. The assessment is described by PARCC as a way to “measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.”

The PARCC test has been met with opposition from parents and students across the country, including those in New Mexico. Hundreds of students in Albuquerque have challenged the testing this week by walking out of school and organizing protests. New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera supports the PARCC test and said it “takes the necessary step of raising expectations.”

Silva said that school staff intervened while she was handing out the opt-out forms. “They started pulling the fliers out from the kids’ hands,” she said. Silva said that she was then taken to the principal’s office where she waited for over an hour. Jacqueline Ellvinger, Silva’s mother, told KRQE that her daughter was suspended for one day.

“I was very upset when I heard this,” Ellvinger said. “Parents need to know that this form is online and they are able to opt their children out of it.” Ellvinger also had her son opt out of taking the test.

The Santa Fe school district claims that no students have been disciplined for opposing the testing, and released a statement saying that “Santa Fe Public Schools supports a parent’s right to opt his or her child out of state-mandated standardized testing… no students in the district have been disciplined for supporting or promoting this district policy of a parent’s right to opt their child out of testing.”


EXCLUSIVE: Sheriff Stands Up to IRS, Cancels Land Sale

WASHINGTON, February 7, 2015—New Mexico’s Eddy County Sheriff Scott London notified the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) via letter that the sale of county resident Kent Carter’s property is canceled until Carter receives due process of law and his appeal is heard. The certified letter dated February 4 received an immediate response from the Undersecretary of the Treasury’s office. According to the Treasury’s website, however, the public auction is still slated for February 19.

“Many officers have stood up over the years for the rights of citizens being victimized by the federal government,” said Sheriff Mack, founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, “But Sheriff London is the first one to stand up to the IRS since the early 1990s.” Mack said, “His actions show courage and humility. London is setting a good example for the rest of our sheriffs.”

Approximately ten days before Christmas, U.S. Marshals broke in the door of Carter’s rental property with their guns drawn. The tenant was a young mother with a new baby—home alone while her husband was at work. Sheriff London was called to the property to intervene. He advised the Marshals that Carter’s case was in appeal and he deserved due process. They threatened to arrest London, but he stood his ground and they backed off.

Carter has battled the IRS for decades over taxes on the earnings of his modest construction business. One court document listed his debt at $145,000, a figure Carter says an assessing agent “pulled out of thin air.” Every time he challenged them, his bill would shoot up a few hundred thousand dollars. His legal complaints state that the IRS failed to adhere to its own tax code, did not use proper accounting methods, and that the collection activity was unlawful because no notices of deficiency were given. Carter says his private and confidential information, including his social security number, was filed in public records and given to third parties. The IRS countered that it can publish and disperse the private information of Americans if it is trying to collect their money or property. A judge agreed.

Carter says the IRS is currently claiming he owes $890,000, a figure that “doubled with the stroke of a pen.”

The Taxation & Revenue Department ordered Carter to cease “engaging in business in New Mexico” until his arbitrary tax debt was paid. Carter appealed this injunction on the grounds that it was both unconstitutional and vague, as it deprived him of his right to make a living and also prohibited him from, “carrying on or causing to be carried on any activity with the purpose of direct or indirect benefit.”

“The IRS fabricates evidence against citizens by pulling numbers out of a hat and adding fees,” said Mack, “They wear people down emotionally and financially until they can’t take it anymore. No citizen should ever have to fight the IRS for decades in order to keep his land.”

“The IRS is a lie. The income tax is a lie,” said Carter. “Why should they be able to take anything? They’re worse than the mafia.”

The Carter properties have liens placed against them. A locksmith was instructed to change the locks. The IRS authorized the United States Marshal Service to arrest/evict anyone found on the premises. London, however, physically stood in front of Carter’s gate until the Marshals backed down. A public auction on the front steps of the Eddy County Courthouse is scheduled, but the local county sheriff—trained in the Constitution—resisted.

Carter voluntarily vacated his property and relocated his mobile home to an undisclosed location. “I chose to leave to keep it from escalating to something ugly—like Ruby Ridge, Idaho,” he said. Carter said he advised the Marshals and IRS Agents who publicly claimed he had armed friends on his land, “If there is going to be any violence, it is going to be you who starts it.”

Carter says 100% of his Social Security benefits is seized each month by the IRS, in addition to $2,800 the agency drained from his bank account. Legally, the IRS can take no more than 15% of Social Security benefits.

Mack says banking institutions quiver when faced with the IRS’ gestapo tactics and generally hand over customers’ personal banking information, including access to accounts, without requiring a warrant or even any documentation. He encourages county sheriffs to brief every bank in their jurisdiction to refer inquiries from IRS agents to them.

Sheriff Mack is calling for the IRS to start following the law, including no “random” audits without probable cause, as they violate the Fourth Amendment. He asks them to stop committing crimes and rewarding IRS employees with bonuses for cheating on their personal taxes. “I agree with Senator Ted Cruz and others who say the IRS should be abolished,” said Mack. “It’s time they got off the backs of the American people.”

Carter says he prays daily for wisdom, and that he is surviving to be able to look into his grandchildren’s eyes and tell them he fought for their future and for America.

London is the first Republican to ever be elected sheriff in Eddy County. He distributes Bibles on behalf of Gideon International and met his wife in choir practice.

Former scientist jailed for attempting to sell nuclear bomb secrets

A former scientist who worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to give nuclear secrets to Venezuelan operatives.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 79, pleaded guilty in 2013 to charges of espionage for delivering the nuclear plans to FBI agents. Mascheroni, who thought the FBI agents were with the Venezuelan government, also said he would build 40 nuclear bombs for Venezuela in exchange for “money and power,” according to St. Louis Today.

“I’m going to be the boss with money and power,” Mascheroni, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, reportedly said in recordings the FBI released Wednesday. “I’m not an American anymore. This is it.”

According to the BBC, Mascheroni said Venezuela would be able to establish a secret underground nuclear reactor in order to enrich plutonium, and he said the country would be able to produce a nuclear power plant as well.

John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, told the Telegraph, “The public trusts that the government will do all it can to safeguard ‘Restricted Data’ from being unlawfully transmitted to foreign nations not entitled to receive it.” 

The “Restricted Data” included information concerning the manufacturing, design, and use of atomic weapons, as well as information involving the production of special nuclear material to create energy.

New Mexico US Attorney Damon Martinez also said, “Those who work at our country’s national laboratories are charged with safeguarding that sensitive information, and we must and will vigorously prosecute anyone who compromises our nation’s nuclear secrets for profit.”

Mascheroni is sentenced to five years in jail, while his wife Marjorie, who also worked for LANL and pleaded guilty to similar charges, will face one year is jail.

Federal Appeals Court: Driving With Upright Posture and Acne Is Sufficient Evidence For Traffic Stop

New Mexico-  A federal appeals court has unanimously ruled that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over.

The ruling was made after Cindy Lee Westhoven filed a motion to suppress evidence of marijuana possession resulting from her encounter with Border Patrol Agent Joshua Semmerling. Westhoven challenged the arrest: “She argued the initial stop, her subsequent detention, and her de facto arrest all violated her Fourth Amendment rights,” the ruling stated. Westhoven had been pulled over by Semmerling in April 2012. Preceding the incident, Semmerling and Westhoven passed one another driving in opposite directions on Highway 80 in southern New Mexico.

Semmerling noticed that Westhoven’s arms were “straight and locked out” at a “ten-and-two position on the steering wheel” as she was driving by. Semmerling decided that this was unusual behavior, and made a U-turn to stop Westhoven “for an immigration check to determine the citizenship of the driver and any passengers.” Upon stopping Westhoven he observed that her vehicle, a Ford F-150, had tinted windows and Arizona license plates. Semmerling was convinced that this was suspicious.

Semmerling found Westhoven’s facial complexion suspicious as well; noting acne scars on her face, he believed that she might be a methamphetamine user. He began questioning Westhoven about where she was coming from and where she was heading. Westhoven was visibly anxious during the stop; Semmerling stated that he had  “never seen somebody shaking like that before”.

Westhoven told Semmerling that she had been shopping in Douglas, Arizona and was heading to Tucson. Semmerling believed that her response was odd because “Tucson had better shopping opportunities than Douglas”, and driving on Highway 80 in New Mexico between Douglas and Tucson was an indirect route. During his questioning Semmerling saw that Westhoven had two cell phones in the truck, which he considered to be further evidence that she was smuggling illegal immigrants.

After Semmerling ran Westhoven’s Arizona driver’s license and found no warrants, he requested to search her truck, and she refused. He then called in a canine unit to check her vehicle, and marijuana was found inside the truck. Westhoven was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Westhoven argued that driving with a stiff posture was no justification for being pulled over. Having facial acne, two cell phones, and tinted windows were not in violation of any law. Judge Scott M. Matheson, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit stated that none of these characteristics are suspicious on their own. “But when taken together along with driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates in a mountainous smuggling corridor 40-45 miles away from the border, we conclude Agent Semmerling had reasonable suspicion Ms. Westhoven was involved in smuggling activity.”  The three judges of the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the search and threw out Westhoven’s motion to suppress the evidence of marijuana.

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Cops Spray Woman’s Vagina With Mace To “Punish” Her After Drug Arrest

Cops in New Mexico repeatedly sprayed a woman’s vagina with mace after she was arrested for drugs. They allegedly did this to “punish” her.

The woman, Marlene Tapia, was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center after her arrest. Next, officers stripped her to search for drugs. They made her bend over and then claimed she had a plastic bag containing drugs in her vagina.

Officers should have subsequently had medical staff remove the bag from Tapia — but they did not do this.

Instead, an officer “punished” the woman by spraying her vagina with mace. That officer, Blanca Zapater, allegedly did this several times in a row.

Tapia is being represented by an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Peter Simonson, the Executive Director of New Mexico’s ACLU branch, is disgusted by what happened. He said, “It’s tantamount to torture. It’s just the maliciousness, the wanton disregard, wanton maliciousness that the corrections officer demonstrated. This is the kind of chemical that is intended to be sprayed on other parts of the body, to cause pain, but to spray it on the very most sensitive part of a person’s body only doubles the pain.”

After being sprayed, Tapia suffered from immense pain and severely swollen genitals.

Zapater has been punished. Although her specific punishment is unknown, Zapater remains on staff at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The ACLU is bringing their lawsuit is to “ensure that these sorts of things don’t happen to another person.”

Here are the court records regarding the incident:

NM ABQ Sprayed Genitals

This case is only the latest in a string of recent controversial actions by New Mexico police. Earlier this month, cops in the state forced enemas and cavity searches on several drivers for minor traffic violations.

How can we exist in a relatively safe society but still be able to hold our law enforcement accountable?


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New Mexico Police Force Enemas & Anal Cavity Searches On Drivers Pulled Over For Minor Violations

As we reported last week, New Mexico man David Eckert was forced to undergo several enemas and anal cavity searches in January. The invasive searches happened after the man was pulled over for not coming to a full stop at a Walmart stop sign. Cops said they were suspicious of Eckert because he was “clenching his buttocks.”

No drugs were found on Eckert.

Now, another similar story has surfaced. New Mexico cops did the same thing to another driver, Timothy Young, for failing to signal a turn in October, 2012.

When officers pulled Young over in Silver City for the minor violation, one of their drug-sniffing dogs indicated that he had drugs on him. After cops obtained a warrant, Young was taken to Gila Regional Medical Center where he was forced to undergo several enemas, anal finger exams, and a colonoscopy — just like Eckert.

No drugs were found on Young, either.

Although the same officers were not involved in Eckert and Young’s cases, the same drug-sniffing dog was used both times.

The dog’s name is Leo. Local news station KOB4 took a look at Leo’s certification and found that he had been trained — but that his license to assist police with drug searches expired in April, 2012 (prior to both Eckert and Young’s cases).

Police dogs like Leo are supposed to have their license renewed each year.

Currently, independent oversight boards are looking into both cases. We will keep you up-to-date as news breaks.