Out West Roundup: Kids have furry, four-legged friends in New Mexico courts

Author: Associated Press - December 1, 2017 - Updated: December 8, 2017

In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, photo, Yvette Gurule, an information system administrator at the 13th Judicial District Attorney Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, gets acquainted with “Lucy” a 5-year-old golden retriever, who has been trained as a facility K-9 for child victims. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

New Mexico

Kids have furry, four-legged friends in New Mexico courts

ALBUQUERQUE — Looking adorable is only part of the job description.

Also required is the ability to remain calm in public spaces and to impart that peaceful feeling to others, particularly children.

Filling the job openings are Lucy and Kasey 2, golden retrievers who are being trained as “courthouse facility” dogs.

The program involving the dogs is an offshoot of “Kasey Says,” in which a trained dog, Kasey 1, goes into schools and becomes the trigger for discussions on a host of topics, all of which begin with “Kasey says” — as in “Kasey says don’t do drugs,” or “Kasey says don’t drink alcohol.”

Kasey 1 will continue as the furry face of the school-based program, but her sister Lucy will be the go-to dog in the 13th Judicial District.

Meanwhile, a second dog, Kasey 2, a year-old male English golden retriever, is being trained as a courthouse facility dog for the 9th Judicial District in eastern New Mexico.

“For the most part, judges are OK with the facility dogs in the courtroom,” and regard them much the same way as service dogs that are used by people attending courthouse proceedings, said Barbara Romo, a deputy district attorney.

Kasey 2 is being trained by Tracie Dulniak, owner of K9 Rehab Institute, who is donating her services.

Ultimately, she said, the goal is “to provide a presence for the child, and when the dog is calm, that’s transferred to the child.”


Death penalty in play for suspect in Utah student’s shooting

SALT LAKE CITY — The death penalty is a possibility for an ex-convict accused of gunning down a University of Utah student with a weapon stolen from a slain Colorado man, but prosecutors said that decision won’t come soon.

After Austin Boutain made his first court appearance last week via video from jail, Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Matthew Janzen said the death penalty is in play because Boutain, 24, is charged with aggravated murder.

He and his wife, Kathleen Boutain, are accused of hatching a carjacking plot that led to the fatal shooting of Chenwei Guo, a 23-year-old computer science student from China. He was killed Oct. 30 in a canyon near the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City.

Kathleen Boutain, 23, isn’t charged in the killing but faces criminal solicitation, theft and other counts.

The couple also are accused in the Oct. 27 killing of Mitchell Ingle in Golden, Colorado, but they have not been charged yet. The Boutains confessed in police interviews to cutting Ingle’s throat as part of a plan to rob him, according to Colorado court documents.

Janzen, the prosecutor, said the Utah case will be allowed to play out before Colorado charges are filed.

Austin Boutain has a criminal history that includes drug, car theft and weapons charges dating back to when he was a juvenile. He was released from an Alabama prison this spring but skipped parole in Wisconsin a few months later and wound up living under a bridge with his wife in Golden, Colorado, authorities said.


ACLU urges Wyoming lawmakers to consider justice reform

CHEYENNE – A report issued last week by the Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union urges lawmakers to take a serious look at criminal justice reform in an effort to remedy bloating prisons and budget cuts.

But some lawmakers and other officials say the organization’s concerns about the creation of new crimes and harsher sentences for existing ones is overblown.

The report states that one in 58 people in Wyoming are under state supervision. One in 130 is incarcerated.

Sabrina King of ACLU Wyoming said that’s largely because of the creation of new crimes.

In the last four years, the Wyoming Legislature has passed 28 bills establishing new crimes or increasing existing penalties, according to the report.

But Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, wasn’t buying the ACLU’s argument.

“I think Wyoming’s criminal justice system is right where it needs to be,” she said.

Wyoming had the second-lowest recidivism rate for state prisons in 2007, according to a 2011 report from Pew Charitable Trusts. The study stated that less than 25 percent of prisoners returned to state facilities once they served their time – much lower than the national average of more than 43 percent.

And Nethercott said the majority of inmates in state facilities are violent or sex offenders. Those who are locked up for drug-related offenses are often there for intensive treatment, she said.

“I’m not sure it’s fair to just conclude that those offenders who are there for drug-related offenses are imprisoned specifically for punishment,” she said. “It’s for rehabilitation purposes as well.”


Climate activist convicted after pipeline protest in Montana

FORT BENTON, Montana — An activist who was trying to call attention to climate change was found guilty of criminal charges last week for closing a valve last year on a pipeline carrying crude oil from Canada to the United States.

A Montana jury found Leonard Higgins of Portland, Oregon, guilty of criminal mischief and trespassing.

Higgins could face up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine on the felony criminal mischief charge. He said he planned to appeal.

Higgins entered a fenced site near Big Sandy, Montana, in October 2016 and closed a valve on pipeline operated by Spectra Energy. The pipeline carries oil from Canada’s tar sands region.

Activists simultaneously targeted other pipelines in Washington state, North Dakota and Minnesota.

The protesters called pipeline companies ahead of time to warn about their actions, and workers shut down four of the sites before protesters reached the valves. The pipeline targeted in Washington state was not operating at the time.

Spectra Energy, now owned by Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, previously condemned the protests as “dangerous and reckless.”

Higgins, 65, a retired technology worker for the state of Oregon, said before the trial he wanted to present a “necessity defense” and argue that his act of civil disobedience was necessary because climate change is an emergency that cannot be ignored.

But District Judge Daniel Boucher said in an April order that testimony on climate change would be irrelevant to the charges. Boucher said he would not allow the trial to be used as a vehicle for political protest.

South Dakota

Tribe’s marijuana consultant pays fine, court costs

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — A cannabis cultivation expert who was prosecuted in South Dakota after working with a Native American tribe trying to open the nation’s first marijuana resort will see his drug case dismissed.

A sentence handed down last week for Jonathan Hunt caps the state’s prosecution of two consultants who worked with the Flandreau Santee Sioux on an ambitious venture that the tribe once dubbed an “adult playground” that could bring in $2 million a month.

The plan for a resort north of Sioux Falls was ultimately abandoned after fears of a federal raid culminated with the tribe burning its marijuana crop in 2015.

A state judge agreed to Hunt’s request for a suspended imposition of sentence, allowing the case to be dismissed and the record to be sealed after he paid a $500 fine and about $100 in court costs.

Hunt, 44, worked for Colorado-based Monarch America, a marijuana consulting company, when he was charged last year after assisting the tribe.

Hunt pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to possess marijuana after agreeing to cooperate with authorities.

“A marijuana resort is a violation of both federal and South Dakota law that would further create public health and safety issues across our state,” South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley told the AP.

The tribe began the marijuana growing operation after the Justice Department outlined a new policy clearing the way for American Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as some states that have legalized pot.

The plans included creating a smoking lounge with a nightclub, bar and food service, and eventually an outdoor music venue.

Associated Press

Associated Press