Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DWI Prosecutions by the AG's Office...Is There a Message Here?

The long holiday weekend is over and the work-world gets back to normal, kids are out of school, weather is warming up, and we have given due recognition to our men and women in the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  But for some New Mexico families, all they will remember is that they lost loved ones to drunk drivers over the three day weekend.

Last week we announced that the NM Supreme Court refused to further delay the trial of a former state police officer involved in a drunk driving death.  The defendant was a passenger in the car that struck and killed a pedestrian, the driver was convicted and sent to prison. Attorney General King's special DWI prosecutor is handling the former officer's trial on behalf of the State.

I was asked by reporters whether this signals that the AG's Office is going to begin targeting passengers in vehicles whose drivers are busted for DWI.  The short answer is no.  However, under the theory of accomplice liability, circumstances could again dictate that such a prosecution is necessary.  I tried to explain to reporters that there is no template for DWI prosecutions; that each case is evaluated on its own set of facts.  "DWI-passenger-prosecutions" are not commonplace in New Mexico so I was asked why other prosecutors around the state have not been doing so.  That is a good question, but I can only speak for our office.

Another question posed to me was whether the AGO was targeting law enforcement officers involved in drunk driving cases.  Again, no.  But we will not look the other way either.  The Attorney General, like most people, believes law enforcement should be held to a higher standard.  No one likes to see police officers involved in DWI or any other crimes but as this Attorney General has said on many occasions, he will follow the evidence no matter where it leads or to whom.

To answer my own question as to whether there is a message in the Attorney General's Office prosecution of DWI cases of all types: yes, and the message is that too many people have already died because of drunk drivers.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Attorney General King Meets with Israeli Leaders

President Obama was speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was responding while the U.S. Congress listened; and during it all, AG King was in Israel discussing law enforcement and other issues with the President of Israel Simon Peres.  Read all about it here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Binge-In-A-Can" Drinks Less Potent Now

Good news to report in the continuing battle against alcoholic products popular with young and underage drinkers in New Mexico. 

Anhueser-Busch says it is lowering the alcoholic content in large containers of its popular Tilt malt beverage. The company announced that it will reformulate Tilt to contain 8% alcohol by volume, compared with the current 12% for its 24-ounce product. A-B's newly reformulated drinks are expected on store shelves soon with all products in containers over 16 ounces conforming to the new cap on alcoholic content.

Late last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began an effort to ban highly alcoholic, highly caffeinated beverages after a number of incidents involving young drinkers.

Attorney General King has long been at the forefront of efforts in New Mexico to reduce underage drinking and has involved this office in several national legal actions involving manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic energy drinks and other products that target young consumers. Anhueser-Busch's actions seem like positive steps in the right direction. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Public Records Law Updated...Are You in Compliance?

Attention all public bodies....there are updates to New Mexico's Inspection of Public Records Act that go into effect very soon.  Attorney General Gary King urges public agencies subject to the law (you should know who you are, if not, let me know) to get acquainted with the newly adopted amendments. Members of the general public should give them a look too, so that you know what your rights are when it comes to requesting documents from government agencies.

Learn how public bodies are supposed to respond to records requests; see how new electronic technology affects records requests; and what the agency responsibilities are to protect personal information.

AG King is considered to be the father of the modern day Inspection of Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act. He sponsored legislation establishing both during his time as a state legislator.  I think you can see why compliance with these laws is important to him as Attorney General and on a personal level.

Take a look at our news release on the IPRA updates and let us know if you have any questions.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse

If you are reading this post you, like me, survived the predicted End of The World over the weekend. Glad to have you here.  But I have just learned that the danger is not over.  Apparently, lots of people are talking about the Zombie Apocalypse.  After some research, I concluded that the Attorney General's Office should share the information I found.  Please follow the link below and remember, it is never too late to improve your chances of survival.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Corruption Cases


I must admit I was a bit vexed by part of the following reporting in a television news story last night about how former Secretary of State Vigil-Giron may now be facing a federal investigation to "...
see if former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron misused or helped steal millions of dollars in federal funding.

News 13 has learned a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in the case.

But the state case faces a deadline. The attorney general's office has one month to hand the case over to an outside prosecutor to avoid a conflict of interest or the judge might dismiss the charges."

The highlighting above is my own in order to clarify a very important point. The judge in this case was very explicit in saying there was no evidence of a conflict of interest by the Attorney General's Office, only the possibility of a perception of a conflict. One might think I am picking nits here but this is how inaccurate beliefs get started. It is conceivable that someone not familiar with the case would gather that the AGO had a "conflict of interest" and that's why the case was removed from its direct control. The judge clearly stated that there could be a perception or cloud that could arise over the proceedings and based upon that belief, he felt it would be better to have some other prosecutor go forward with the case. We have steadfastly maintained that there is no such conflict. 

In all fairness, I expect it was just an oversight in the report. That is partly why I started this blog...to correct potential misconceptions. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oral Argument in Block Case Today


Attorney General Gary King's office today in Albuquerque presented oral argument in the Jerome Block Jr. and Jerome Block Sr. case. The case is before the New Mexico Court of Appeals in what is believed to be the first criminal prosecution under the New Mexico Voter Action Act. The Brief in Chief was filed in June 2010. Today's proceeding was handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Montgomery, from our Criminal Appeals Division.

Other documents of interest posted here include the original indictments of Jerome Block Sr.; Jerome Block Jr.; and the state's reply brief.

No timeline was set by today's Court of Appeals Judges as to when they would come back with their decision.


A new "first" for the office; an emailed scam reported to us that involves someone posing as United States Attorney General Eric Holder.  The scammer claims that the email recipient has been accused of "money laundering and terrorist activities" and if they do not immediately pay a $170 for a "Clearance Certificate" they will be prosecuted.  This would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that it is likely some poor soul will eventually fall for it.  By the way, we alerted the local US Attorney's Office to the scam involving their boss's name.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Purpose of this blog

First of all, credit to Paul Harvey for popularizing the concept that there is usually more to a story than what first meets the eye. 

My name is Phil Sisneros, as Director of Communications, postings to this blog will primarily be my responsibility. Occasionally, however, someone else from our Communications Division staff will post information.

The purpose of this blog is simple; to expand upon, clarify, and provide correct information about the NM Attorney General's Office (AGO) that may also appear in  media sources such as television, radio, newspaper, blogs, etc. Often, there is more to know about the activities of this office than is typically reported by the mainstream media due to their time and space limitations or editorial purposes. We also invite readers to visit the Attorney General's Office website for detailed information about the services offered by and the duties of this public agency. This blog is just another alternative source for getting the rest of the story.

For example, yesterday the AGO put out a News release about an agreement that was signed by AG King and most of the other AGs around the country. The agreement called for Circle K corporation and its franchise stores to adopt policies that help eliminate tobacco product sales to minors in New Mexico and 31 states, plus the District of Columbia.

We did not have space in the news release to list all the policies that are expected to be put into effect by Circle K, but we have space here:

The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement includes the following terms (among others):

• ID must be checked on all persons who appear to be under 30, to protect against mistakes by clerks in evaluating a person’s age by their appearance alone.

• In-store advertising of tobacco must be limited in ways intended to reduce the effect on young people, and outdoor advertising is to be eliminated at stores within 500 feet of playgrounds or schools.

• Employee training will focus on the mechanics of eliminating underage tobacco sales, and will also emphasize the serious health issues that give rise to the legal efforts to restrict youth access to tobacco.

• Circle K will test itself on the effectiveness of its own safeguards against underage sales by conducting “mystery shopper” compliance checks at 500 of its stores every six months.

• Circle K voluntarily agreed to pay the attorneys general a total of $225,000 to be used for such purposes as consumer education, public protection, or the implementation of programs protecting against tobacco use by minors.

The agreement also notes that the great majority of adult smokers started before they reached eighteen; that young people show signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes; and that the younger a person begins to smoke the more likely he or she will be unable to quit and will suffer from a tobacco-related disease.

That's the Rest of the AGO Story for now. More coming soon.