Cuts loom in New Mexico unemployment benefits
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexicans qualifying for extended unemployment benefits next month will have their payments reduced by 25% because of federal spending cutbacks.
The Department of Workforce Solutions estimated Wednesday the cuts initially could affect 2,100 people.
The reductions won't apply to people currently in the state-funded unemployment compensation program offering 26 weeks of benefits. However, they will face cuts if after June 2 they qualify for assistance through federally-financed extensions of benefits, which can continue payments for an additional 28 weeks.
There will be no cuts for New Mexicans already receiving extended benefits unless they exhaust one federal level of assistance lasting up to 14 weeks and move to the final 14-week period of payments.
About 22,000 New Mexicans receive unemployment benefits, which range from $76 to $407 weekly.
NM transgender student skips graduation over flap
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A transgender student at an Albuquerque high school has skipped his graduation over a dispute about what color robe he had to wear.
Officials at St. Pius X Catholic School insisted that because Damian Garcia was born as a girl, he had to wear a white robe along with the other girls at Wednesday's graduation ceremony.
Garcia wanted to wear a black robe like other male students.
He was named Brandi until legally changing his name last year.
St. Pius officials said it's a matter of school policy. The school goes by what the student's birth certificate states if there's any question on what gender-color they wear at graduation.
The Albuquerque Journal says the University of New Mexico's LGBTQ Resource Center will host a May 30 graduation ceremony for Garcia.
Martinez joins other governors on health panel
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been named to a National Governors Association task force on health care.
The organization announced Tuesday the panel will consider how states can improve the delivery of quality health care while controlling the costs of Medicaid, a program jointly financed by states and the federal government to provide medical services for the needy.
Other members of the task force on health care sustainability are governors from Oregon, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, California, New York, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Maryland and Nevada.
The Martinez administration has asked the federal government to approve an overhaul of New Mexico's Medicaid program, which provides health care for a fourth of the state's population. One goal is to better coordinate medical care in hopes of making New Mexicans healthier.
OFFICER'S WIFE KILLED
NM judge unseals most docs in Chavez case
BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) - A judge in the case of a former Albuquerque police officer accused of killing his wife has agreed to unseal most of the pre-trial documents sought by media outlets.
But Sandoval District Court George Eichwald ruled Wednesday that some documents should remain private because he is concerned that if potential jurors hear the information Levi Chavez won't get a fair trial.
Eichwald last month had granted a request from Chavez's attorney, David Serna, to seal all pretrial motions in advance of the June trial.
A coalition of media outlets, including the Albuquerque Journal, The Associated Press, Valencia County News-Bulletin, and televisions stations KOAT, KOB and KRQE, challenged that decision.
Prosecutors say Chavez killed his 26-year-old wife, Tera Chavez, and tried to cover it up by making her death look like a suicide.
Judge who retired faced NM misconduct allegations
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Supreme Court has unsealed records indicating that a San Miguel County probate judge faced allegations of misconduct when he retired in March.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the records included a Judicial Standards Commission notice of former proceedings against then-Judge Joe Horace Lucero.
The February notice said Lucero was accused of calling a prospective litigant "sweetheart," retaliating or trying to retaliate against a lawyer who said he would file a complaint against Lucero, and failing to be patient, dignified and courteous to the lawyer and the prospective litigant.
Lucero declined to comment on the allegations.
A Supreme Court order issued Tuesday accepted what it called the "permanent retirement" of Lucero and his pledge never to seek judicial office.
ROBBERY SPREE PLEA
Man pleads guilty to robbing 5 NM businesses
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty to robbing five Albuquerque-area businesses at gunpoint during a three-month span last year.
Prosecutors say 22-year-old Julio Francia, of Albuquerque, entered his plea Wednesday.
He's been in federal custody since February 2012 and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors say Francia will be sentenced to a federal prison term of 15 to 20 years.
Authorities say Francia was accused in the armed robberies of 2 auto parts, a restaurant and two fast-food establishments between last August and October.
Murder trial underway from Santa Fe rent dispute
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A Santa Fe landlord's murder trial is underway in a case stemming from the shooting of a tenant and her daughter's boyfriend during a January 2012 rent dispute.
Testimony began Tuesday in District Court in Arthur Anaya's trial in the killings of Theresa Vigil and Austin Urban, allegedly committed in a dispute over $100 in late rent.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that prosecutor Tim Williams said the case is about money but defense attorney Joseph Campbell said his client shot Vigil and Urban in self-defense after asking them to leave his property.
Anaya is charged with murder, bribery of a witness, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault on a peace officer.
POLICE SUED-FATAL CRASH
Albuquerque sued over fatal collision
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The family of a 21-year-old woman killed in a February automobile collision involving an Albuquerque police vehicle is suing the city.
The lawsuit filed May 15 in state District Court by the family of Ashley Browder contends the Albuquerque Police Department has a history of illegal and unsafe driving by officers.
Browder was killed Feb. 10 when an SUV driven by her sister collided at an intersection with a police SUV driven by Sgt. Adam Casaus. The sister was seriously injured.
Law enforcement investigators concluded that Casaus was driving above the posted speed limit when he went through a red light.
He's on administrative leave and faces criminal charges.
City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry told the Albuquerque Journal that the city cannot comment on pending litigation.
Dallas woman indicted, college financial aid scam
DALLAS (AP) - A North Texas woman has been charged with scamming six schools by getting thousands of dollars in financial aid and not completing any online courses.
Prosecutors in Dallas on Wednesday announced 30-year-old Sussette Sheree Timmons has been indicted on six counts of financial institution fraud.
Timmons received financial aid from New Mexico State University, Western New Mexico University, Ashford University, Northern New Mexico College, Coconino Community College and Pima Community College.
Timmons enrolled for distance learning programs via the Internet and some financial aid was applied to her tuition and fees. Prosecutors say she also received some disbursement checks but never used the money for her education.
Prosecutors say Timmons, who was indicted Tuesday, has withdrawn from 13 colleges or universities since 2009.
She remains at large.
MAN BLOWN OFF ROOF
NM man dies after wind blows him off roof of barn
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A 39-year-old man was fatally injured when gusting winds blew him off a Moriarty-area barn roof.
Santa Fe County Sheriff's Maj. Ken Johnson says the gust apparently carried Bradley Cartright about 75 yards when he was blown off the neighbor's barn where he was working late Monday.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, Johnson says efforts by a resident and rescue personnel to resuscitate Cartwright were unsuccessful.
SCHOOL FUNDING ERROR
NM school funding error snags districts
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A problem with a computer form's alphabetical listing caused dozens of New Mexico school districts and charter schools to get too much state funding and others not enough.
Television station KRQE reports that the state Public Education Department acknowledged its error resulted in 25 districts and charters being shorted a total of roughly $830,000 while 26 others got more than $2.5 million too much.
The error occurred when the West Las Vegas district was mistakenly listed as "Las Vegas West." The result was that funding amounts for districts and charters in the bottom half of the alphabet were off by one line.
The department says it is reimbursing the districts and charters the money they're owed. And it says the overpaid ones won't have to pay back the money.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico children could win a trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom or ride in a hot air balloon with Gov. Susana Martinez under a program that state officials hope will encourage students to read when they aren't in school.
The governor is to announce several reading contests on Wednesday in Albuquerque. The state is partnering with private and public organizations, including the city of Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The governor's office says the goal is to prevent a drop in the reading proficiency of students during the summer months.
Among the top prizes for winning students is an expense-paid family trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, throwing a pitch at an Isotopes baseball game and serving as a junior zookeeper at Albuquerque's zoo.
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