The state House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved legislation aimed at preventing domestic terrorism in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in August at an El Paso Walmart that targeted Hispanics. The panel also advanced legislation toughening the state’s cyberterrorism law. Supporters of House Bill 269, which resulted from discussions among New Mexico officials about how to guard the state against such an incident, argued it will offer prosecutors the proper legal tools in a case of domestic terrorism. The bill, which now advances to the House floor, defines the state crime of terrorism and would make it a second-degree felony to commit an act meant to intimidate or coerce the public, including mass violence in a public place, or an attempt to influence policy or politics using intimidation or coercion. Under the measure, it also would become a second-degree felony to make or possess a weapon “designed or intended to cause death or serious physical injury by the release, dissemination or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals” or biological or radioactive weapons.
An Albuquerque district judge denied a motion by the administrative arm of the New Mexico Legislature to quash subpoenas of legislators to testify in the Phil Griego criminal case. Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless told lawyers with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and an attorney with the Legislative Council Service (LCS) that lawmakers can be subpoenaed but that they can still invoke a privilege to not testify if they choose. Loveless said the court would take it on a “circumstance by circumstance and a question by question” basis. The motion to quash the subpoenas came from the LCS when they argued that lawmakers are protected by a speech and debate clause which allows them to freely argue and vote on issues in Santa Fe without retaliation. Clara Moran, director of special prosecution with the AG said her office spoke with a number of lawmakers who said they are not represented by LCS and would likely not avoid testifying.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to expand possible charges for possession of child pornography on Thursday, setting the stage for quick passage on the House floor as early as next week. The main focus of the child pornography bill was on the portion that would allow charges for “each separate depiction” of a child under 18—that is separate charges for each image. The child pornography bill would also add an extra six months in jail—which could not be deferred or suspended—for each images of children who can be proven to be under the age of 13. Every member of the panel agreed that the crimes were horrific and those who broke the law deserved to serve time in prison—with many advocating for a long time. The question came over just how much jail time the person could receive and if this was the best way to punish those who possess child pornography.