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April 12 First News: 9th Judge Out In Griego Fraud Case

A man has been convicted in the death of a 14-month-old Albuquerque boy he was babysitting last year.  Prosecutors say a 2nd District court jury Monday found Christopher Garcia guilty of child abuse resulting in death of a child under age 12.  The 30-year-old Garcia had been babysitting 14-month-old Isaac Arevalos with his wife when he said the child fell out of bed and lost consciousness on March 25, 2015.  The Albuquerque Journal reports paramedics weren't called until the child's mother took the boy to the home of his father.  By then, authorities say the brain damage was so severe that the baby died within two days.  Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced June 16.  Prosecutors say Garcia's wife is scheduled to stand trial in August in the case.

Authorities say a 9-month-old girl who was abducted while inside a vehicle stolen in Albuquerque has been located along with the vehicle.  Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Felicia Romero says Ariana Smith was last seen in an SUV that was stolen around 2 o’clock yesterday. Romero says the child was found several hours later and was taken to a hospital to be evaluated.  The vehicle allegedly was taken by 23-year-old Leighraughnzo (loh-REN-zoh) Benally.  Deputy Romero says Benally is an acquaintance of the baby's mother and he allegedly took the SUV "with the full knowledge that the child was in the vehicle."

Farmers in New Mexico are already facing the unpredictable effects of climate change, and this year they have also had to digest a blanket veto of all infrastructure project money by Governor Susana Martinez.  The governor said no to almost $1-million in capital outlay money that had been approved by Republican and Democratic legislators alike, with Martinez calling the projects “pork” that didn’t produce jobs in the state.  But the head of the state’s Acequia association, Paula Garcia, disagrees with the governor’s assessment that ditches don’t contribute to the state’s economy.

PaulaG#2: “Agriculture is still a vibrant part of the economy in NM, including in my county of Mora-where the per capita income is $18K and the money they raise on their cattle and alfalfa is huge.”

Garcia says tourism also benefits from the verdant fields and orchards where the state’s fruits and vegetables are cultivated and fed by the Acequias.  She says farmers might have to dig deeper into their own pockets to finance some of the badly needed projects like concrete diversions that are crumbling and for which Acequias will have to wait at least a year to request legislative funding again.  You can hear more on New Mexico’s Acequia system and how it works, today on our At Noon news program.

Another judge has recused himself from the public corruption case against former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego.  Now that District Judge David Thomson has withdrawn from the case, all nine judges in the Santa Fe-based judicial district have either been excused or recused themselves.  That puts the case on hold until a retired judge can be brought in, or until the chief Supreme Court Justice assigns one from outside the 1st Judicial District.  State Attorney General Hector Balderas has filed 10 criminal counts against Griego including fraud, perjury, tampering with public records, and bribery.  Prosecutors say Griego used his role as a senator to orchestrate the sale of a state-owned building near the state capitol in downtown Santa Fe.  Griego resigned last year, after several terms as a state senator and a Santa Fe city councilor before that. He has pleaded not guilty to fraud, bribery and other charges.

The New Mexico Tourism Department says it will allow some state businesses to use the popular "New Mexico True" brand on their products.  State officials said Tuesday it will launch a New Mexico True certified program to highlight businesses that are uniquely New Mexican.  To earn a certification, products must be 100 percent made in New Mexico, animals and livestock must be raised in New Mexico, or products must be grown in the state.  Gov. Susana Martinez says the program is aimed at drawing more attention to products from the state.  Four years ago, the New Mexico Tourism Department unveiled the New Mexico True campaign, which promised tourists that they would encounter "adventures steeped in culture."

A northern New Mexico city hopes a "so damn authentic" campaign brings in new tourists.  The Las Vegas Optic reports the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico is set next month to launch a new marketing effort that highlights everything from the city's recreational hot spots and the ghosts that allegedly roam the town.  City officials and Santa Fe-based Cisneros Design unveiled the new "so damn authentic" advertising campaign last week and said the slogan will be used on everything from print ads and billboards. The city also will revamp its tourism website and push a social media campaign.  The campaign plans to collect hundreds of stories about Las Vegas and post them on a new DamnAuthentic.com website that is scheduled to go live on May 1.

Federal officials say a fatal airplane crash in in northern New Mexico doesn't appear to have been caused by mechanical problems.  The Los Alamos Monitor reports that a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found no mechanical issues with the single-engine rental plane that crashed near Ohkay Owingeh Airport near Espanola in March.  Los Alamos residents Karen Ann Young and Thomas Spickermann were killed in the crash. Authorities say Young was the pilot.  State Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Armijo says there were no other people aboard the plane.  The NTSB is expected to follow up the initial report with a more thorough report that includes the cause of the crash.