A state agency that helps compensate victims of crimes was called out by the U.S. Department of Justice for using federal grant money to reimburse victims for medical cannabis purchases. The U.S. Office of the Inspector General released its audit of the New Mexico’s Crime Victims Reparation Commission this week, and criticized the agency. Cannabis, the federal agency said, is still illegal on a federal level. “While medical marijuana is legal in the State of New Mexico, federal law does not recognize or protect the possession or use of medical marijuana,” the audit read. “As a result, medical marijuana is an unallowable expenditure and cannot be paid for with federal grant funds.”
The Office of the Inspector General recommended the state commission change its procedures to make sure federal money does not pay for cannabis.
The scope of an ongoing federal criminal investigation into events surrounding the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old woman by an Albuquerque police officer in 2014 stretches beyond what has been previously reported. That’s according to the lead investigator for the city’s independent police watchdog group. Department of Justice officials took the rare step last month of confirming an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower that APD employees tampered with video from officers’ body cameras and other sources, including video from the early morning hours of April 21, 2014, when then-APD officer Jeremy Dear shot Mary Hawkes. But Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA), said in an interview that federal authorities are “looking into the entire case,” including whether the shooting itself was unlawful. In a series of presentations to Justice Department officials in early November, Harness and one of his investigators turned over information they had gathered during an administrative review of the shooting.
Federal officials on Thursday said they are conducting a criminal investigation of allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees altered and deleted body camera video. The Department of Justice has received “several requests” seeking a criminal probe, Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, said in an emailed response to questions from New Mexico In Depth. “The Justice Department will decline to comment further due to its ongoing investigation into this matter,” Martinez wrote in a rare public confirmation of a federal criminal investigation. APD referred a reporter to Mayor Richard Berry’s spokeswoman for comment. She did not immediately respond.
The U.S. Supreme Court wants the Department of Justice to weigh in on a lawsuit the state of New Mexico filed against the state of Colorado over the Gold King Mine spill that occurred in 2015. The Call for the Views of the Solicitor General, as the order is known, was part of orders released Monday. The Supreme Court did not grant any new cases. The call asks for the Solicitor General to weigh in on the case, though the federal government is not involved in the lawsuit. According to The Hill, the request likely will not be fulfilled before Jan.
Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Board has told the office of the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico that the Albuquerque Police Department has stonewalled the agency “at every turn” in its attempt to help reform the troubled department. In a letter to Elizabeth Martinez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Beth Mohr, chair of the oversight agency, laid out scathing criticisms of APD Chief Gorden Eden. She wrote that APD’s actions “directly thwart” efforts at civilian oversight and use-of-force reform. The the civilian board’s efforts have become a “waste of time” because of APD’s refusal to cooperate as required by city ordinance and the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit over APD’s unconstitutional use of force, she wrote. ABQ Free Press Weekly contacted an APD spokesperson seeking comment and did not immediately hear back.
When the U.S Department of Justice last week announced they would stop using private prisons, many New Mexicans questioned whether New Mexico might follow suit. The DOJ decision to close private prisons will have no effect on the five privately run prisons in the state, as those contracts are managed by the state. NM Political Report was unable to reach Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel or his staff about details on the state’s contract with private companies who run prisons. The only private prison in New Mexico with federal ties is set to close in October as the Federal Bureau of Prisons did not renew a contract. Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, said the prison closure in Cibola County is an opportunity to expand public prisons in the state.
“I’m going to invoke my Fifth Amendment right.” Former Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear uttered that phrase — and others very much like it — more than 130 times on Tuesday as he was being deposed by an attorney for the family of a 19-year-old young woman Dear fatally shot in April 2014. Shannon Kennedy, whose law firm represents the family of shooting victim Mary Hawkes in a federal civil rights lawsuit, asked Dear a wide range of questions about his history at APD, the shooting, his behavior in its aftermath and other matters. This piece originally appeared at NM In Depth and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. He didn’t answer any of them. Kennedy’s firm has litigated dozens of police shooting cases over the course of decades.
Albuquerque police Detective Herman Martinez had an anonymous tip: a man and woman had warrants out for their arrests, they had been selling large amounts of heroin in the city, and the man had a gun. So shortly after noon on June 28, Martinez and seven other plainclothes officers from the APD Narcotics and Vice units followed Camille Gabaldon, 38, and 37-year-old Greg Chaparro, in unmarked police cars as the pair drove through the city in a maroon sedan. This story first appeared in New Mexico In Depth. It is reprinted with permission. Within an hour, the officers were in another fraught drug investigation — the third such incident involving the Narcotics Unit and street-level users during the last several weeks. The June 28 encounter provides another lens through which to view a New Mexico version of the tension between law enforcement and marginalized communities that is roiling the nation.
A practice of a police union giving payment reimbursements of up to $500 to Albuquerque police officers after shootings from the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) continues. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday on how one officer, Jeremy Dear, went to Hooters and a Chinese massage parlor two days after he fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes. Part of that report, unrelated to Dear’s actions, says “police union officials confirmed officers are still reimbursed up to $500 by the union to use for vacations and other ways to decompress after being involved in a shooting.”
It’s a practice that first surfaced publicly in 2012 when news broke that the union had given out payments to 23 officers involved in shootings. The revelation led to an outcry from critics over the appearance of awarding cops for shooting people in a department where a culture of “excessive use of force” eventually landed a court-ordered consent decree from the federal Department of Justice demanding a reform process. The city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department are still working on the implementation of the reforms.
At the time, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and then-APD Chief Ray Schultz called for the practice to stop.
The Obama administration has asked a Brownsville-based judge to rethink an order that requires the federal government to turn over the private information of thousands of undocumented immigrants. The May 19 order from U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen asserted that the federal government’s attorneys intentionally misled the court during proceedings over the Obama admiration’s controversial executive order on immigration, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. The court order included instructions for the federal government to provide Hanen a list of the immigrants who benefited prematurely from DAPA. But in a filing Tuesday, the federal government’s attorneys said providing that list would jeopardize the faith the American people have in one of the government’s largest institutions. “Requiring (Department of Homeland Security) to produce ‘all personal identifiers’ and ‘all available contact information’ for approximately 50,000 individuals by June 10, 2016, could undermine public trust in DHS’s commitment to protecting the confidential information contained in immigration files and will create a significant burden,” the filing states.