Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Corruption is Only One of the Problems

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Everyone in New Mexico knows that under the 70+ year Democratic rule of our state corruption has flourished liked bacteria in a petri dish. But, what is less understood is that the total disregard for the rule of law, especially within the ranks of the elected and appointed leaders of the current administration, is not simply limited to padding wallets and stealing from taxpayers to fatten campaign funds. In an attempt to curry favor with one political voting block or another, the Administration has shown the most cavalier attitude toward laws and regulations – changing and discarding them on a whim with a complete disregard to the constitutional process.

We’ve seen it time and time again. Appointees have held midnight meetings to circumvent the legislature and “rewrite laws” as they see fit. We’ve seen others take illegal administrative liberties to steal your water from right under your land. There has been little to no fiscal accountability for state agency after state agency for years. Of course, for the majority of New Mexicans these might seem like actions that “don’t really directly impact me and my family.”

Well, let’s see if we can bring this down to the simplest terms. If lying, cheating and stealing aren’t enough to get your blood boiling, then maybe the raping of children will put you over the edge:

Because CYFD acted as if this regulation did not exist, CYFD failed to notify ICE and released Juan Gonzalez when he was charged with molesting a 3-year-old girl and raping a 6-year-old boy in 2005 when he was found not competent to stand trial. He walked.

Then, in 2008 Gonzalez was arrested again for (allegedly) raping a 4-year-old.

This was preventable.  In fact, the rules and laws were on the books to prevent this from happening. But, the current administration opted to make their own rules. They assumed, as they have all along, that they are above the law:

The Richardson administration did not want to enforce the regulation, for whatever reason, so, rather than engage in the legal process to change the law, they just substituted their own view of what they wanted the law to be.

And now, because of the administration’s arrogance and chutzpah, another innocent child, a 6-year-old little girl playing at a local gym has her life shattered by the act of a (suspected) criminal that could have been prevented.

It’s time the voter’s sent a clear message that they’ve had enough. Regardless of your political affiliation, make sure you vote in the upcoming primaries and encourage your neighbors to do the same. It’s time to send the lawless and self-interested packing and put people in office that will put public service above self-interests.

Richardson Threatens Public Safety

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

There’s a time to play politics, and there’s a time to solve problems. Apparently, someone forgot to clue Governor Richardson into this fact:

The state of New Mexico would have to shutter two prisons, give early releases to up to 660 prisoners and lay off and furlough Corrections Department employees if Gov. Bill Richardson signs budget cuts approved by the Legislature, his office said Wednesday.

Richardson’s office raised that grim possibility as his staff analyzes the impact of $253 million in spending cuts legislators passed during a special session last week to deal with a revenue shortfall.

If the real measure of leadership is how someone performs in a time of crisis, Governor Richardson is failing miserably. The Governor has always been a great campaigner, there is no question about that; however, now that we actually need an executive leader, he is seriously falling down on the job.

He’s still in political spin mode, which is nothing short of ridiculous considering that he can’t run for re-election. In fact, his attempt at side-stepping responsibility by choosing to threaten the public with the unleashing of criminals rather than cut fat from a bloated bureaucracy is very likely going to hurt the campaign prospects of those who wait quietly in the wings.

The Governor has been shown to be quite enamored with all things Cuban, so I can’t help but wonder if his strategy is not just a bit Castro inspired:

It is true that Castro opened his jails during the 1980 exodus, flooding Miami’s streets with criminals, drug addicts and mentally unhinged people, which contributed to Miami’s skyrocketing crime rate and helped it become murder capital of the world by 1981.

Fidel Castro did it to take make a point and causes chaos for those who didn’t agree with his style of governing, and it appears that Governor Richardson is doing the exact same. Worse, it looks like there isn’t a single person in his administration with the backbone to step up and say, “Hey Governor, threatening to unleash criminals on the taxpaying public is not a viable option.”

It is true that one Richardson Administration politician has publicly noted that “the state can only have one chief executive at a time.” But, it is equally true, that a public official’s first responsibility is to the public. Of course, this is a fact that seems to be long forgotten by the ruling political elite in New Mexico. They work for us, we do not work for them. We put them where they are, and we can take that away. And, if they continue to choose to threaten instead of lead, I’m sure come Election Day, we will do precisely that.

Lines are Becoming Blurred

Monday, June 8th, 2009

State government in the Land of Enchantment is mired in corruption with one investigation being launched after another. The lack of indictments and swift action is beginning to take a toll. Now, every incident is being viewed as a pay to play scenario:

“Hi Commish! I know you’re getting pressure from our friend to resolve Mr. Atencio’s issue. I know it is taking a while but it by no means (is) being ignored. It is being redesigned completely to address his concerns.”

That e-mail from a top New Mexico Department of Transportation official has helped reignite an inquiry into whether an Española businessman whose property is needed for a $68 million road project received special treatment from the state.

DOT officials redesigned a portion of the planned reconstruction of U.S. 84-285 last fall after receiving complaints from restaurant owner Luis Atencio. Atencio is one of more than 40 property owners whose northern New Mexico land is needed for project right of way. So far, he has refused to sell.

State Transportation Secretary Gary Girón asked for the internal investigation on May 26 after e-mails surfaced showing that DOT second-in-command Rebecca Montoya and Jim Franken, vice chairman of the state Transportation Commission, got involved in Atencio’s right-of-way fight earlier this year. The “Hi Commish” e-mail was sent from Montoya to Franken on Jan. 5.

This is the second time in six months the DOT’s office of inspector general has looked into the allegation of special treatment.

It is noted in the article that Mr. Atencio made significant contributions to both the Governor’s presidential campaign and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s campaign. But, here is the thing. Pay to play, works this way. An individual makes a contribution, and then receives a special favor in return. That would be criminal.

However, if the same individual seeks and receives constituent service, and then turns around and makes a political contribution, that would not be an illegal activity. The problem we have is that since so much pay to play corruption in New Mexico is occurring without prosecution that the lines are now becoming blurred.

One of the unintended consequences of not prosectuing criminals in government is that before long, elected officials and government employees are going to have an excuse to insulate themseleves from everyday citizens for fear of appearing to act in improperly.

A Reason to be Armed

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

A 62 year old disable veteran is attacked for being neighborly:

Morris, a disabled veteran who doesn’t drink, was talking to people sitting near him at the restaurant when several men began yelling at him for talking to their girlfriends, family members told the Daily Times.

“My husband is the type of guy who never sees a stranger. If you’re sitting in the table next to him, you’re going to be talked to,” the victim’s wife, Kathleen Morris, told the paper.

When Morris and his wife tried to leave the restaurant following the altercation, the men followed him outside, the Daily Times said.

“He said, ‘Just leave me alone, all I want to do is go home,'” Kathleen Morris said. “The guy that was in his periphery hit him in the temple and knocked him out., and all three or four of the young males started kicking him in the head, in the stomach, they stomped his hands, they took kidney shots.”

There is a gun show this weekend at New Mexico Fairgrounds.

Declining Performance

Monday, October 6th, 2008

I probably should have given this more attention last week, but I guess better late than never. It looks like even by her own accounting District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s performance is spiraling downward (subscription):

[Kari] Brandenburg says the DA’s Office got convictions in 57 percent of the cases it took to trial in 2007 and says the overall conviction rate since she took office is more than 95 percent, taking into account guilty pleas.

Brandenburg concedes the data raise some questions and said she will thoroughly look into all of the cases on the list.

She pointed out that some of the cases were gang-related and witnesses backed out of testifying at the last minute. Four of the acquittals and three of the mistrials involved sex crimes, which she said are hard to get convictions on.

Of the four murder cases on this year’s list, there were three convictions and one acquittal.

Torraco had a different view of the 2008 statistics.

“It’s a disgrace. It’s a travesty. There are a million words to describe this,” said Torraco, who believes the DA’s Office should win 80 percent of its cases. “I am seriously questioning their ability to analyze cases.

“When we have a DA whose loss record is greater than 50 percent, we know she is clogging the system with cases that should not have even been brought.”

Let’s review, shall we? District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has an overall conviction rate over the last eight years of 95%. But, in 2007 according to her own analysis, that rate dropped to 57%, and then according to an analysis done by her opponent in the District Attorney’s race, Lisa Torraco, that conviction rate has dropped down to an alarming 37% for the first six months of this year.

At this rate of decline, it won’t be long before the all of the criminals are running around free on our streets. But, probably most troubling for me is this statement that District Attorney Brandenburg made:

Brandenburg concedes the data raise some questions and said she will thoroughly look into all of the cases on the list.

How can you run an office as District Attorney and only become aware of the precipitous drop in convictions through an Albuquerque Journal interview? How exactly has she been benchmarking her performance if she wasn’t already aware of the significant declines in convictions.

It’s this type of declining performance that makes it clear that District Attorney Kari Brandenburg must go.

Disclosure: I’m supporting Lisa Torraco for D.A.

Valencia County Sheriff Endorses Martin Heinrich

Monday, August 25th, 2008

The Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, Martin Heinrich, proudly exclaims on his website that he has garnered the support of three of the four sheriff’s that make up the district – the fourth being his opponent, Sheriff Darren White.

I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at why these particular sheriffs might choose to support Martin Heinrich over Darren White. Today, we’ll start with Valencia County Sheriff, Rene Rivera, and Rivera’s stated reason for supporting Martin Heinrich:

Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera appeared Saturday at a Valencia County welcoming event for Martin Heinrich. In his endorsement, Sheriff Rivera said, “I’ve been in law enforcement for over 19 years fighting against crime and drugs. Martin Heinrich was tough on crime on the Council, and I know he’s the right partner in Congress to help keep our streets safe. That’s why I’m endorsing him.”

Since I’m not a Valencia County resident, I don’t know much about Sheriff Rivera’s crime fighting record over the last 19 years, but when it comes to being tough on DWI’s, his record is, well, less than impressive:

[Valencia County sheriff’s deputy] Duran has been arrested on DWI charges twice before, according to Belen Magistrate Court records. In 2003, Duran was charged with DWI and speeding but pleaded guilty to resisting an officer and reckless driving, and the other charges were dismissed. In 2004, he was charged with aggravated DWI causing bodily injury, and the charge was dismissed without prejudice.

[Valencia County Sheriff] Rivera said he knew when he hired Duran, a former State Police and Socorro police officer, that he had a prior DWI charge. However, he said Duran was hired because he had never been convicted.

One thing most voters can agree on is that number of repeat DWI offenders allowed on our roads has got to stop. Yet, Sheriff Rivera, not only doesn’t seem to be bothered by the problem, he is willing to look the other way and give a two time offender a badge. And, apparently, Martin Heinrich must agree with him because Heinrich’s proud to accept Sheriff Rivera’s endorsement.

It is worth noting Sheriff Darren White’s record on DWI enforcement:

Sheriff White has also made preventing and reducing DWI a top priority in Bernalillo County. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for harsher penalties, under his leadership, the Department has undertaken aggressive DWI enforcement operations.

So, on the one hand we have a law and order candidate for Congress, Sheriff Darren White, an on the other, we have a candidate, Martin Heinrich, who happily accepts the endorsement of a Sheriff who seems to believe that the solution to the DWI problem is to give repeat offenders a job as a deputy.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at another one of the Sheriff’s who supports Heinrich.

TEN Prior Burglary Arrests

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Remember Elton Richard. He was the decorated marine a judge sent to prison for protecting his family against a twice convicted felon. At the time, there was an uproar, and thankfully the judge reconsidered and Elton Richard, a hero by most standards, was released.

Well, now this puts it all in perspective (subscription):

The doorbell was ringing frantically.

A man was looking through the windows.

The stranger wanted inside, and 13-year-old Seresa Lobardeux was home alone.

She grabbed a knife, ran to her mother’s bedroom and locked herself in a bathroom.

She called her mom on her cell phone. There was no answer. She called her aunt, who told her to call 911.

While on the phone with dispatcher Amy Maurino, she could hear the blinds to a window moving. Then she heard footsteps in the hallway. Maurino stayed on the phone with her, and within nine minutes, police arrived and wrestled the man to the ground.

Adolph Ware, who was arrested on residential burglary charges, was on probation. He had 10 prior burglary arrests.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Our court system is broken. When a man with 10 prior burglary arrests is free to roam the streets and terrorize a thirteen year old girl, there is something seriously wrong.

There is a happy middle to this story… the police arrived and arrested the scumbag. Now, let’s see if the rest of the justice system will do its job and ensure that this menace is off streets. If they do, it will be an exception to the rule as T. J. Wilham reported in the story (subscription):

An Albuquerque Journal investigation last year revealed that just 12.5 percent of the 281 people Albuquerque police arrested in 2006 on burglary charges received jail sentences.

That’s disgraceful. More importantly, that’s dangerous for you and me.

Please Unseat this Judge

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Pretend you’re a Judge. Now, pretend this predator ends up in your court (subscription):

An Albuquerque man agreed to plead guilty to a dozen child pornography charges, provided that he be allowed to perform his civic duty and vote.

Patrick O’Hara, 66, had been facing 180 years in prison if convicted of the 70 charges of sexual exploitation of children he was indicted on in November.

His son, Timothy O’Hara, 42, was also indicted on 20 similar charges.

If he asked you to let him vote in the upcoming election, would you? Me Neither. Unfortunately, we’re not sitting on the bench. However, District Judge Charles Brown is, and here is how he ruled:

Before accepting the plea, O’Hara had a question for state District Judge Charles Brown.

“Prior to your sentencing, can I vote in the June election?” he asked, referring to the June 3 primary election.

O’Hara added that he is “working on” obtaining an absentee ballot.

Brown approved the request, partly because O’Hara is not set to be sentenced until July 16.

There is good news here. District Judge Charles Brown is up for re-election on June 3rd:

State District Judge Charles Brown, also appointed in August, will oppose longtime Albuquerque attorney Gail Prosser in the criminal division.

New judges must stand for the first partisan election following their appointments. After that, they are subject to retention races every six years.

As a Republican, I can’t vote against District Judge Charles Brown, but many of you reading can. I don’t know anything about Gail Prosser, but if she doesn’t think its a good idea to grant special requests to child predators, I’d say she HAS to be better than District Judge Charles Brown.

Forget Commissions and Just Prosecute

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

An opportunity to follow up on yesterday’s post and conveniently respond to Matt Brix’s comment (can always count on Matt for civil discourse on the topic of ethics):

Days after he took office in January 2007, Attorney General Gary King told me, through a spokesman, that an investigation of the scandal that toppled most of the state’s affordable housing system in 2006 would be a top priority.

Sixteen months later, some are beginning to wonder.

It’s not that nothing has happened. The AG has successfully obtained court orders to boot three tenants from homes owned by the Albuquerque-based Region III Housing Authority because they didn’t qualify for affordable housing. Two were employees of the authority and one was a board member.

What do you think? Could this have all been avoided if only we had had an ethics commission in place to “provide training for public officials and public employees” involved in this scandal?

Yeah, somehow I don’t think so either.

Here’s what it boils down to for me. I believe that the vast majority people are good and lead their lives in an ethical manner. They’ll find a wallet and return it to its rightful owner. Forget the wallet, they’ll find a bag filled with $140,000 and turn it in because they know in their “gut that to keep that money would be wrong.”

Unfortunately, there are those that choose to ignore their gut. Those people are criminal. Those people should be prosecuted and thrown in jail. We don’t need a commission to educate them on what is ethical, we need a prosecutor willing to do their job.

Matt, my friend, the people’s government can be held accountable every day. We don’t have to wait until an election. We can draw attention to prosecutors who fail to prosecute. We can shine a spotlight on those who conduct their unethical behavior in the shadows. We can even demand justice.

But, what we must not do is create yet another government commission that makes people feel like they don’t need to be diligent and civilly active because of the assumption that some third party is going to take care of it for them. Just because many other states have chosen to rely on this crutch, does not make it right.

Why It Makes a Difference Who Becomes President

Friday, April 18th, 2008

A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a harsh reminder of exactly what is at stake when electing the next President of the United States.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a New Mexico case that convictions for drunken driving do not count as violent felonies for enhancing prison sentences.

The justices, by a 6-3 vote, said even though great harm can result from drunken driving, it is different from other crimes that involve purposeful action. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion.

“Great harm can result from drunken driving?” There’s an understatement. Death occurs from drunken driving, and the more times someone drives drunk the more likely death is to occur. Exactly, how many times did Larry Begay drive drunk? Well, we know by examining the Supreme Court decision (pdf) that…

At the time of this incident, petitioner was a convicted felon. He had 12 prior convictions in New Mexico for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). While DUI is generally a misdemeanor under New Mexico law, the offense of DUI after at least three prior DUI convictions isa felony requiring a sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment. N. M. Stat. Ann. §66–8–102(G) (Supp. 2007).

And, according to Judge Alito’s dissenting opinion the Supreme Court decision also had the following statistics available to them at the time of the decision:

Statistics dramatically show that driving under theinfluence of alcohol is very dangerous. Each year, approximately 15,000 fatal alcohol-related crashes occur, accounting for roughly 40% of all fatal crashes. Approximately a quarter million people are injured annually in alcohol-related crashes. The number of people who are killed each year by drunk drivers is far greater than the number of murders committed during any of the crimes specifically set out in the statutory provision at issue here,§924(e)(2)(B)(ii)—burglary, arson, extortion, and offenses involving the use of explosives.

Petitioner’s qualifying offenses, moreover, fell within the statute only because he had been convicted of DUI on at least three prior occasions. As noted, petitioner had a dozen prior DUI convictions. Persons who repeatedly drive drunk present a greatly enhanced danger that they and others will be injured as a result. In addition, it has been estimated that the ratio of DUI incidents to DUI arrests is between 250 to 1 and 2,000 to 1.6 Accordingly,the risk presented by a 10th, 11th, and 12th DUI conviction may be viewed as the risk created by literally thousands of drunk-driving events. That risk was surely “serious,” and therefore petitioner’s offenses fell squarely within the language of the statute.

This repeat drunk driver was a violent crime waiting to happen. Actually, considering what brought him to court in the first place, it was only by a sheer stroke of luck that Larry Begay did not commit a violent crime:

In September 2004, after a night of heavy drinking,petitioner pointed a rifle at his aunt and threatened to shoot if she did not give him money. When she replied that she did not have any money, petitioner repeatedly pulled the trigger, but the rifle was unloaded and did not fire. Petitioner then threatened his sister in a similar fashion.

So, when you think about it who to elect as President, remember, they get to select the judges to fill open Supreme Court slots.