Lawsuit: NM woman faced illegal body cavity search
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A federal lawsuit says U.S. border and customs officials strip-searched a New Mexico woman at the El Paso border crossing, then took her to a hospital for illegal body cavity probes.
The lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in El Paso says the unnamed 54-year-old U.S. citizen was searched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in December 2012 after being selected for random screening. The lawsuit says she transported in handcuffs to the University Medical Center of El Paso where doctors subjected her to an observed bowel movement, a CT scan and rectal and vaginal exams.
The American Civil Liberties Union says no drugs were found on the woman but was charged $5,000 by the hospital.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment.
A hospital spokeswoman said hospital policy requires consent from all patients who receive medical services.
Fed court rules in NM campaign contribution case
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The state Republican Party, GOP lawmakers and others have been handed a victory by a federal appeals court as they continue to challenge New Mexico's cap on certain campaign contributions.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says a lower court was right in issuing a preliminary injunction to keep the state from imposing limitations on certain contributions going to and from political parties and political action committees.
At issue is whether political committees that aren't formally affiliated with a political party or candidate can receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures.
The Republicans argue the state's cap on such contributions is unconstitutional.
The state appealed, arguing that limiting such contributions is in New Mexico's interest as it tries to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption in campaign spending.
Commission approves PNM's renewable energy plan
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - State regulators have approved a plan by New Mexico's largest electric utility to build three more solar power plants next year and add more wind-generated power in 2015.
The plan approved yesterday by the state Public Regulation Commission will add 84 cents to the monthly bills of PNM's average residential customers in 2014.
Utility officials say the new solar energy centers will be located in Valencia and Sandoval counties. Together, they will be capable of producing enough electricity for about 8,960 average residential customers.
First Solar Inc. of Arizona was chosen to build the centers at a cost of about $47 million.
In 2015, PNM says it will start supplying customers with power from the 102-megawatt Red Mesa Wind Energy Center west of Albuquerque.
Budget deal cuts mineral payments to states
WASHINGTON (AP) - Wyoming, New Mexico and other states will lose more than $400 million in mineral payments over the next decade under a budget deal nearing final approval in the Senate.
A provision in the budget deal preserves a 2 percent fee charged by the government on royalties from energy companies that purchase oil and gas leases on federal land. The fee effectively set a 51-49 split, favoring the federal government, on energy royalties.
The government last year paid $2.1 billion to 35 states under the program, with the largest payments going to five Western states: Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and California.
Wyoming would lose about $19 million next year and nearly $200 million over the next decade. New Mexico would about lose $10 million next year and Utah, $2.8 million.
PLANE CRASH-LOS ALAMOS
Plane that crashed at Los Alamos had just turned
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Investigators say a small plane that crashed after takeoff from the Los Alamos airport had just made a sharp turn before it went down the morning of Dec. 8.
The crash in a ravine near the airport destroyed the plane and killed both people aboard. They have been identified as 51-year-old Michael D. Fjetland of Harmony, Minn., and 52-year-old Kevin John Burrs of Corwith, Iowa.
A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report says two witnesses reported seeing the plane just before the crash.
The preliminary report says one witness said the plane appeared out of whirling snow and then made a 180-degree turn.
The second witness reported seeing the airplane at about 100 feet in the air and that it made a steep turn before it disappearing from sight.
Woman involved in NM van chase sought in Tenn.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A Memphis, Tenn. woman whose van was chased and shot at by New Mexico State Police during a chaotic October traffic stop near Taos is wanted in Tennessee.
A Bartlett, Tenn., judge issued a failure to appear warrant for Oriana Farrell this week in connection with a September speeding ticket.
Farrell has remained in New Mexico where she is under a court to order to stay pending the resolution of charges from the separate Oct. 28 case near Taos.
A since-fired New Mexico State Police officer shot at her van filled with children after she twice sped off after being stopped by another officer for speeding.
Farrell's attorney in Taos, Alan Maestas, told the Albuquerque Journal a way to resolve the two-state situation might be to just pay the Tennessee speeding ticket.
FLAMENCO STUDIO FIRE
Fire destroys flamenco studio in NM; Cause unknown
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A flamenco studio in downtown Albuquerque has been destroyed in a fire and authorities say the cause of the blaze is under investigation.
Fire crews responded to the scene just before 4:30 last night at the National Institute of Flamenco building.
Firefighters reported dark smoke shooting 40 feet into the air from the studio, whose occupants were evacuated.
No injuries have been reported.
Albuquerque Fire Department officials say crews tried to fight the blaze from inside the building, but were pulled out due to the possibility of the roof collapsing.
Once crews started battling the flames defensively from the outside, the roof caved in.
Fire officials say crews were able to stop the fire from spreading to the five surrounding businesses.
San Juan County man arrested in fatal shooting
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - A 24-year-old San Juan County man has been arrested in the shooting death of a man whose sister alerted authorities after reading Facebook posts.
Farmington police say U.S. marshals arrested Mark Hinojos on Tuesday evening in the killing early Monday morning of 39-year-old Randy McKenzie.
His body was found along an oil field road in the Farmington area.
Police say McKenzie's sister contacted authorities after reading Facebook posts indicating her brother had been killed.
Police say Hinojos faces charges of second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
It's not immediately known whether he has a lawyer.
Two other people also have been arrested in the case. They're accused of tampering with evidence and conspiring to tamper with evidence.