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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Brawl The City May Need Is Engaged; War Footing Now Between Berry And Brandenburg, Power Struggle Over Police, Plus: Defending Sam  

DA Brandenburg
The city of Albuquerque is finally getting the long overdue political brawl it sorely needs. Will it lead to the clean-up of its deeply stained police department?

The administration of Mayor Richard Berry has gone on war footing against Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg but Brandenburg, unlike so many before her, is refusing to back down. It's making for a contest of wills that hopefully will lead to APD being brought to heel.

(Reports from the battlefield are here, here and here.)

The decision by APD and the city attorney to bar Brandenburg's office from the scene of Tuesday night's fatal police shooting was the tipping point. The Berry administration--via Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry--then doubled down, demanding that Brandenburg appoint a special DA to investigate future police shootings, arguing that she has a conflict of interest because she has filed murder charges against the two officers who killed homeless camper James Boyd. 

Perry and Berry would essentially have the elected office of District Attorney--the chief oversight of APD--removed from the process. Talk about a power grab. (Speaking of oversight, where's the police lapel camera video from the Tuesday night shooting?) 


An outraged Brandenburg--who was previously putty in the hands of APD--fought back tooth and nail, setting the stage for future confrontations and putting the ball in the court of the US Justice Department to enforce the consent decree. That decree, signed with the city, requires the DA's involvement in police shooting cases.

The vengeance with which Brandenburg is being pursued--the filing of bribery charges against her, barring her office from a shooting scene and editorials demanding that she relinquish her power--reveal the death grip that the rogue element has at APD and within the Berry administration. It's like seeing a corpse in rigor mortis grasping an iron bar.

WHERE'S BERRY?

He wasn't around when homeless camper James Boyd was shot--a killing that prompted international outrage--and he hasn't been seen during this war he has launched against Brandenburg in the wake of the latest fatal police shooting. Instead, Mayor Berry has sent forth Perry and his minions to try to tame a DA who has turned from pussycat to escaped tiger. Same goes for the baffled ABQ police chief Gorden Eden. He's left the building. Cat got your tongue, fellas? Or is that a tiger? 

Governor Susana could have been pulled directly into the fray when asked for a comment about a bill that would take the power of investigating police shootings away from the state's district attorneys and giving it to the attorney general. Martinez, a former DA herself, did not take the bait, saying there are other ways to handle any potential conflicts of interest. Probably smart. The only thing Susana is going to get if she gets too close to this fight is a scarred posterior.

DEFENDING SAM

Slamming Sam has become a popular pastime of La Politica but today we have his defenders as well.

NM Dem Party Chair and attorney Sam Bregman has most recently been taking heat for taking on the case of Keith Sandy, one of two police officers charged with shooting and killing homeless camper James Boyd. Ken Rooney writes:

I've got to address some of these Democrats that are "slamming" Sam for, gasp, defending an individual who has every right to a vigorous defense and a fair trial. The cognitive dissonance is astounding. Sure, I get it. People have to ask, "how can they defend these people?" That question is probably no less true for the defense attorneys that defend the Tsarnaevs of the world. In a word: the presumption of innocence, one of the most basic building blocks of our criminal justice system (alright, a lot more than one word).

This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with what every good attorney does: zealously advocate on their client's behalf. Sure, Sam was an awful Dem Chair but he is a damn good attorney.

Nor should defending the accused be a principle that is diametrically opposed with the ideals of the Democratic Party. I had grown up with a Democratic party that embraced the idea of equality and justice for all. . .

Chris Erickson writes:

Joe, I don’t find it that odd that Dem Party Chair Sam Bregman is the defense attorney for an APD officer accused in the killing of homeless camper James Boyd. After all, John Adams defended the two British soldiers accused of murder during the Boston Massacre in 1770. So Bergman follows in a grand American tradition. The re-enactment of the Boston Massacre trail from the HBO John Adams mini-series can be found here.

Of course, Bregman alone doesn't share the burden of the Dems November disaster. There was that hyper-controversial corporate tax cut supported by a number of Dem liberals that also put the party on a collision course with its base. Maybe they can take a page from the playbook of their neighbors over in Arizona:

Arizona Democratic legislators want to roll back business tax cuts to help solve the state's budget deficits. Those calls come after new Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey drew another line in the sand against reversing tax reductions previously passed by former governor, Jan Brewer, and the Republican Legislature. "To balance a budget for true long-term sustainability, we must take a serious look at corporate tax cuts and loopholes to make sure Arizona taxpayers are getting a return on those investments," said Arizona Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs.

If the energy price crash continues and the state treasury falters because of it, Dems here may be forced to follow in the footsteps of their Arizona brethren.

BELATED WAGES

In the better late than never category, the BernCo county commission finally got around to approving the minimum wage increase that it was supposed to put into effect January 1:

The  Commission Tuesday evening approved a cost of living increase for minimum wage workers in unincorporated Bernalillo County, to $8.65 an hour. The measure takes effect on Jan. 26, 2015. Future cost of living increases, if applicable, will be brought to the County Commission for consideration in September of each year. 

Now those getting the minimum wage can use some of it to pay the quarter cent increase in the gross receipts tax that the commission seems bound and determined to approve.

THE BOTTOM LINES

The Legal Beagles point out that we misidentified the chief justice of the NM Supreme Court on the Wednesday blog. The position is currently held by Justice Barbara Vigil.

And we said that the district attorney is "one of the highest" law enforcement officials in Bernalillo County. The DA is the highest such official.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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