Florida Personal Injury Firm Breaks Into Texas With Four Offices

 Florida Personal Injury Firm Breaks Into Texas With Four Offices

Steinger, Greene & Feiner, a personal injury firm with offices in Florida and Tennessee, has expanded into Texas, simultaneously launching offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio and hiring associates to staff them initially.


“It’s a great market,” said Ian Duncan, a partner in West Palm Beach who is moving to San Antonio to head the Texas operations.


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FRI: 13-year-old drove pickup in Texas crash that killed 9, + More

Report finds unsafe conditions in New Mexico migrant jail – By Ben Fox Associated Press


Conditions at a privately owned and operated jail used to hold migrants in rural New Mexico are unsafe and unsanitary and everyone held there should be immediately transferred elsewhere, a federal watchdog said in a report released Friday.


It was an unusually stark recommendation from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, which based its findings on an unannounced inspection in February of the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico. The facility is among many run under contract for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Both ICE and CoreCivic, the company that owns and operates the jail, dispute the findings.


DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari issued what’s known as a management alert to the immigration agency based on “egregious conditions,” according to the report.


“We have determined that ICE must take immediate steps to address the critical facility staffing shortages and unsanitary living conditions that have led to health and safety risks for detainees at Torrance,” it said.


ICE should “immediately relocate” everyone held there, the report said.


Torrance is among about 130 detention facilities used by ICE to hold migrants while their immigration cases are reviewed, though in many cases it allows people to remain free under monitoring.


CoreCivic, based in Tennessee, receives about $2 million per month from the government to operate Torrance, according to the report.


At the time of the inspection, there were about 176 men held there.


The jail has been the site of several disturbances, including a November 2000 uprising in which inmates took jail staff hostage. Eight guards were injured, two critically, in the incident. It is considered an important source of jobs and revenue in a rural county.


The IG found that guards could not adequately supervise and monitor prisoners because of inadequate staff levels and blind spots under stairwells and elsewhere in the facility, which has capacity to hold about 700 people.


CoreCivic, which operates the jail under a contract with ICE, disputed the findings and, accused OIG of misrepresenting evidence. It called for a review of the inspectors.


A company lawyer faulted the report in a letter to the director of ICE. It said, for example, that photos of clogged sinks and toilets were taken in vacant housing units and that floors depicted as wet were, in fact, in the process of being cleaned by detainees.


CoreCivic also accused the inspectors of staging a photo of a detainee using a utility sink for drinking water, according to the letter.


“This deliberate effort to falsely portray our company and this facility in a negative light is even more disturbing because it was done under the guise of legitimate oversight,” Steve Owen, a spokesman, said in an email to The Associated Press.


Immigration and Customs Enforcement sided with CoreCivic, saying the inspector general “ignored facts presented to it in order to achieve preconceived conclusions,” according to the report.


In May, DHS, which oversees the immigration agency, ended contracts with a private Georgia detention facility and another operated under contact by a local government agency in Massachusetts because of conditions for migrant detainees.


DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters Thursday that the agency is conducting a broad review of detention facilities. “We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals who are in detention, nor will we tolerate substandard conditions that do not adhere to our standards,” he said.


Crews rescue unprepared hiker stuck on icy ledge in Sandias – Associated Press


Emergency personnel rescued an unprepared hiker who got trapped on any icy ledge after getting lost during a snowstorm on a trail in the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque, police said.


The hiker was not dressed for cold and windy weather and called 911 Thursday when he was forced to stand still in snow on the ledge to avoid slipping and falling off the mountain, according to a police department statement.


Crew s from several agencies responded and a team was able to hike to within about 60 feet of the man, the statement said.


An officer rappelled down to the hiker and provided him with clothing and crampons, enabling the team to get him off the ledge and hike with him to a parking lot where he was treated and released by fire department medical personnel, the statement said.


The man’s identity was not released.


The incident occurred on the La Luz Trail, which the U.S. Forest Service describes as well known and difficult.


Teddy Buckets: New Mexico State upsets UConn 70-63 in NCAA – By Ralph D. Russo Ap College Sports Writer


New Mexico State coach Chris Jans was in the hallway of KeyBank Center preparing his pregame speech as Richmond celebrated the day’s first victory by a No. 12 seed in a nearby locker room.


“I stopped and watched them. It gave me chills to think about what that would feel like for us,” he said. “Was really, really hoping we’d get to feel that as well.”


The Aggies did just that.


Teddy Allen scored 37 points and New Mexico State won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time almost three decades, upsetting fifth-seeded Connecticut 70-63 Thursday night to become the second No. 12 seed to advance out of the first round.


The Aggies (27-6) will face fourth-seeded Arkansas on Saturday in the West Region. In their 23rd NCAA appearance, the Aggies won for the first time since beating Syracuse in the first round in 1993.


“I know our fanbase has not been hungry for it,” said Jans, who is in his fifth season at the Las Cruces school. “They’ve been starving for it.”


New Mexico State had not been back to Upstate New York since beating Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. In Buffalo, Allen and the Aggies made another memory.


Allen hit a rainbow 3 off the dribble with 1:40 left in the second half to put New Mexico State up 61-58.


“I don’t really need to feel like I’m in no zone,” Allen said. “That’s just how I play.”


He wasn’t done. After R.J. Cole (20 points) cut the lead to one for UConn (23-10), Allen went back to work.


“I’m a hooper, and right now at the level I’m at, this is the biggest stage, and this will be the worst time to fold,” Allen said.


The 6-foot-6 junior drove hard to the basket and scooped it home while drawing a foul. He popped off the floor and ran over to the sideline to flex for the Aggies’ fans before completing the three-point play for a 66-60 lead with 27 seconds left.


“The types of shots that he hits, some of them were unguardable,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.


The Western Athletic Conference champions followed the tournament’s first 5-12 upset onto the floor. After Richmond eliminated Big Ten champion Iowa, New Mexico State asserted itself against the Huskies from the Big East.


Hurley called Allen “a bucket” the day before his team faced the well-traveled scorer.


The West Virginia (and Wichita State, Nebraska and junior college) transfer made a bunch of them against UConn after starting the game 0 for 6.


Allen made his next five to lead a closing 12-2 run that put the Aggies up 32-22 at halftime. He ended up taking almost half of New Mexico State’s 50 shots (24).


“He’s a bad shot-taker and he’s a bad shot-maker,” Jans said.


The Aggies upped the lead to as many as 14 early in the second half. UConn slowly clawed back and tied it 52 with 5:08 remaining. But the Huskies never led in the second half.


“We knew it was going to be a really, really hard game,” Hurley said. “They obviously got a performance from Teddy Allen today that sent us home.”


Allen finished 4 for 7 from 3 and 13 for 13 on free throws.


“The man is a bucket,” Aggies forward Jimmy McCants said.


BIG PICTURE


New Mexico State: The Aggies more than held their own against UConn on the glass, outrebounding the Huskies 26-25.


Allen said Jans told the team this game would prove whether the Aggies were a soft team.


“I just wanted to come out and prove we ain’t soft,” said Allen, who also had six rebounds.


UConn: Adama Sanogo, the Huskies’ second-leading scorer, never did get going inside. He finished with 10 points and eight rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting.


12 STRONG


This is the sixth time in the last 12 NCAA Tournaments more than one No. 12 seed advanced out of the first round.


UP NEXT


New Mexico State will try to win two games in an NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1970.


NTSB: 13-year-old drove pickup in Texas crash that killed 9 – By Cedar Attanasio, Jill Bleed And Anita Snow Associated Press


The investigation into this week’s fiery head-on crash in West Texas now focuses on the revelation that a 13-year-old was driving the pickup truck that struck a van, killing nine people, including six members of a college golf team and their coach.


The young teen was killed in the crash along with his father, who was a passenger in the truck, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said Friday. The teen’s name has not been released, and investigators have not yet determined why the youth was behind the wheel, Blanco said.


National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg on Thursday revealed the truck was driven by the child. He said the truck’s left front tire, which was a spare tire, blew out before impact.


The pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane on the darkened, two-lane highway before colliding head-on with the van. Both vehicles burst into flames.


Although it was unclear how fast the two vehicles were traveling, “this was clearly a high-speed collision,” Landsberg said.


Landsberg said investigators hoped to retrieve enough information from the vehicles’ recorders, if they survived, to understand what happened. He said many in the van were not wearing seatbelts and at least one was ejected from the vehicle.


It’s not unusual for young teens to drive in that region and other more rural parts of the United States. One must be 14 in Texas to start taking classroom courses for a learner’s license and 15 to receive that provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle.


Department of Public Safety Sgt. Victor Taylor said a 13-year-old driving would be breaking the law.


The University of the Southwest students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament in Midland, Texas, when the vehicles collided Tuesday night. Two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.


The NTSB sent an investigative team to the crash site in Texas’ Andrews County, about 30 miles east of the New Mexico state line.


University of the Southwest spokeswoman Maria Duarte declined to comment on the NTSB’s announcement about the young driver, citing the ongoing investigation. The private Christian college is located in Hobbs, New Mexico, near the Texas state line.


The golf teams were traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a box trailer when it collided with the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup, according to NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss.


The speed limit at the crash site is 75 mph, he said.


The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the deceased as: Golf coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico; and players Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of Mexico; Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas; Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado; Karisa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas; Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona, Texas; and Tiago Sousa, 18, of Portugal.


Also killed were Henrich Siemens, 38, of Seminole County, Texas, and his 13-year-old son, who were in the truck.


Critically injured aboard the van were Canadian students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ontario, and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ontario. Both were taken by helicopter to Lubbock, about 110 miles to the northeast.


“They are both stable and recovering, and every day making more and more progress,” University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton said Thursday.


“One of the students is eating chicken soup,” said Tipton, calling their recovery “a game of inches.”


Tipton said University President Quint Thurman visited the students’ parents at the hospital, illustrating the close community at the college with only about 350 on-campus students.


“Hockey was a big part of life for a while, but his true passion is golf,” said Underhill’s brother, Drew Underhill.


The Mexican Federation of Golf posted an online note of condolence to the loved ones of Mauricio Sanchez.


Sousa was from Portugal’s southern coast, where he graduated from high school last summer before heading to college in the U.S., said Renata Afonso, head of the Escola Secundária de Loulé.


A memorial was set up Wednesday at the golf course near campus where the team practices, with flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign. Counseling and religious services were made available on campus.


About 150 people turned out Thursday evening to remember Jackson Zinn at Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant where he worked and met his girlfriend of five months.


“We met here exactly at this table,” said Maddy Russell, 20, of Hobbs. “He was my heart.”


The mourners released around 100 blue and orange balloons into the cold whipping wind of eastern New Mexico, which soon disappeared into the horizon.


Texas crash latest tragedy for family of young driver, dad – By Cedar Attanasio, Jill Bleed And Anita Snow Associated Press


Authorities investigating a fiery head-on crash in West Texas don’t know why a 13-year-old boy was driving while his father sat in the passenger seat of a pickup truck that crossed into the oncoming lane and collided with a passenger van, killing nine people.


The young teen who has not been identified died in the crash along with his father, 38-year-old Henrich Siemens, and six members of a New Mexico college golf team and their coach. The cause remains under investigation, though National Transportation Safety Board officials have said the truck’s front tire, a spare, blew out before the crash.


It’s the latest tragedy for the family of the father and son, of Seminole, Texas.


Community members first rallied around Siemens and his wife, Agatha, in October, when a fire that started in the kitchen destroyed the home where they had lived for a decade. Seminole is a rural community of around 7,500 people, some of whom first relocated to the area in the 1970s with other Mennonite families who started farming and ranching operations.


While the couple and their children escaped the fire without injury, Agatha wrote on her Facebook page at the time that they had lost everything, including one of the family pets.


After the crash, Agatha Siemens shared family photos on social media, saying her husband was the love of her life and that she missed her son. She did not return messages seeking comment.


NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg on Thursday revealed the truck was driven by the child.


After the tire blew, the pickup truck crossed into the opposite lane on the darkened, two-lane highway before colliding with the van. Both vehicles burst into flames.


Although it was unclear how fast the two vehicles were traveling, “this was clearly a high-speed collision,” Landsberg said.


The speed limit at the crash site is 75 mph, according to the agency.


Landsberg said investigators hoped to retrieve enough information from the vehicles’ recorders, if they survived, to understand what happened. He said many in the van were not wearing seatbelts and at least one was ejected from the vehicle.


It’s not unusual for young teens to drive in that region and other more rural parts of the United States. One must be 14 in Texas to start taking classroom courses for a learner’s license and 15 to receive that provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle.


Investigators have not yet determined why the youth was behind the wheel, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said Friday.


The NTSB sent an investigative team to the crash site in Texas’ Andrews County, about 30 miles east of the New Mexico state line.


The University of the Southwest students, including one from Portugal and one from Mexico, and the coach were returning from a golf tournament in Midland, Texas, when the vehicles collided Tuesday night. Two Canadian students were hospitalized in critical condition.


University of the Southwest spokeswoman Maria Duarte declined to comment on the NTSB’s announcement about the young driver, citing the ongoing investigation. The private Christian college is located in Hobbs, New Mexico, near the Texas state line.


The golf teams were traveling in a 2017 Ford Transit van that was towing a box trailer when it collided with the 2007 Dodge 2500 pickup, according to NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss.


The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the deceased as: golf coach Tyler James, 26, of Hobbs, New Mexico; and players Mauricio Sanchez, 19, of Aguascalientes, Mexico; Travis Garcia, 19, of Pleasanton, Texas; Jackson Zinn, 22, of Westminster, Colorado; Karisa Raines, 21, of Fort Stockton, Texas; Laci Stone, 18, of Nocona, Texas; and Tiago Sousa, 18, of Algarve, Portugal.


Critically injured aboard the van were Canadian students Dayton Price, 19, of Mississauga, Ontario, and Hayden Underhill, 20, of Amherstview, Ontario. Both were taken by helicopter to Lubbock, about 110 miles to the northeast.


“They are both stable and recovering, and every day making more and more progress,” University of the Southwest Provost Ryan Tipton said Thursday.


“One of the students is eating chicken soup,” said Tipton, calling their recovery a “game of inches.”


Tipton said University President Quint Thurman visited the students’ parents at the hospital, illustrating the close community at the college with only about 350 on-campus students.


A memorial was set up Wednesday at the golf course near campus where the team practices, with flowers, golf balls and a handmade sign. Counseling and religious services were made available on campus.


About 150 people turned out Thursday evening to remember Jackson Zinn at Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant where he worked and met his girlfriend of five months.


“We met here exactly at this table,” said Maddy Russell, 20, of Hobbs. “He was my heart.”


The mourners released around 100 blue and orange balloons into the cold whipping wind of eastern New Mexico, which soon disappeared into the horizon.


EXPLAINER: Driver in Texas crash was 13; is that legal? – By Gene Johnson Associated Press


From the logging roads of the Pacific Northwest to the farm country of the Great Plains and beyond, it’s not uncommon for people in rural parts of the U.S. to learn to drive when they’re young, sometimes even before they reach their teens.


But the news that a 13-year-old was behind the wheel of a pickup truck that blew a tire and struck a van on a dark, two-lane road in West Texas on Tuesday night, killing nine people — including six members of a New Mexico college’s golf teams and their coach — put a renewed focus on the practice.


At a news conference in Odessa, Texas, on Thursday, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said the dangers of underage driving put it on the agency’s “most-wanted list.” Investigators have not yet said why the teen was behind the wheel before the crash, which also killed him and his 38-year-old father in the truck.


Along with drunk and distracted driving, Landsberg said “youthful driving” and excessive speed on rural roads are among the problems that make highway driving the most dangerous form of transit in the United States.


“Every two days we are killing the equivalent of a Boeing 737 crashing,” he said, referring to highway fatalities from multiple causes. “It’s long overdue that we start to do something about it.”


LEGAL DRIVING AGE VARIES BY STATE


Cash Hogen, a 60-year-old who runs a kitchen and hardware store in Pierre, South Dakota, recalled learning to drive a Ford Bronco “as soon as my feet hit the pedals” — probably around age 10. He’d drive the two-track roads across his family’s ranch in western South Dakota to repair barbed-wire fences or for other tasks.


But his father always stressed safety around vehicles and told stories of horrific tragedies to drive home the danger.


“Under no circumstances would I be out on a public road without my learner’s permit,” he said.


While it’s legal for people of any age to drive on private property, such as farms or ranches, public roads where others are at risk is another matter, said William Van Tassel, the manager of driver training programs for AAA’s national office.


Every U.S. state has some type of graduated driver’s licensing program, by which teens as young as 14 can begin taking driver’s education classes or begin driving with an instructor or guardian, he said. Eventually they gain more independence, being allowed to drive on their own or at night, until they have full privileges.


“Certainly in rural areas there’s a general trend of lower minimum driving ages,” Van Tassel said. “We see a lot of teen drivers have driving experience by the time they come to a formal driver’s education course because they’ve been driving trucks or tractors or other vehicles on the farm. But when it comes to public roads, the laws are pretty clear: You can’t be out there until you’re legally eligible.”


According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, there were 47 fatal crashes and 1,057 injury crashes in 2020 involving drivers 13 or younger.


In 2019, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.9 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas.


PERMIAN BASIN SEES HEAVY TRAFFIC ON RURAL ROADS


The cause of Tuesday’s crash in Andrews County, Texas, near the New Mexico border, wasn’t clear, but federal authorities said Thursday that the 13-year-old was driving a Dodge pickup on a road with a 75 mph speed limit when its front left tire, a spare, blew out.


The truck veered across the center line into an oncoming transit van carrying the golf team from the University of the Southwest, in Hobbs, New Mexico. The boy and his father were killed, along with members of the golf teams and their coach.


Investigators have not yet determined why the boy was behind the wheel, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Steven Blanco said Friday.


While the area is rural, the surrounding oil fields of the Permian Basin that crosses from West Texas into New Mexico mean the traffic can be anything but, local residents said.


Gib Stevens, 57, of Hobbs, leads trucking operations for an oilfield servicing company. He said he himself started driving trucks at age 12 on dairy farms and quiet farm roads, but he said the road where the accident happened was clearly unsafe.


“For a 13-year-old to be driving that road, that was dumb,” Stevens said. “These roads are all oil traffic.”


‘WORST-CASE SCENARIO’ IN TEXAS CRASH


In Texas, one must be 14 to begin classroom instruction for a learner’s license and 15 to receive that provisional license to drive with an instructor or licensed adult in the vehicle. Department of Public Safety Sgt. Victor Taylor said it would be illegal for a 13-year-old to drive on public roads.


Van Tassel noted that the crash involved several risk factors besides the youth of the driver: It happened at night and on a road with a high speed limit when the spare blew.


Further, teenage boys are one of “the most dangerous segments” of the driving population across the country, said Cathy Chase, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.


“This is a worst-case scenario, on top of a worst-case scenario, on top of a worst-case scenario,” Chase said.


Ukraine war ups pressure for US oil; industry faces hurdles – By Matthew Brown And Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press


In the oil fields of northern Montana, industry veteran Mac McDermott watched crude prices whipsaw from $75 a barrel in January to more than $120 as Russia pressed its war in Ukraine, then down again when coronavirus worries in China raised the specter of a global slowdown.


McDermott said his family-owned company will modestly increase drilling if oil prices stabilize. But for the next few months, he’s waiting on the sidelines and struggling to get enough workers to watch over roughly 100 oil wells the company operates. That includes some wells idled during the pandemic that he’s been trying to bring online since last year.


President Joe Biden’s move to ban Russian oil imports over its invasion of Ukraine was met with Republican demands to boost U.S. production to address high gasoline prices. The White House, too, called for more drilling and cited the war as it shelved Biden’s campaign pledge to curb drilling on public lands because of climate change.


Yet political rhetoric about quickly ramping up U.S. crude output is at odds with the industry’s reality: There’s not enough workers to rapidly expand, scant money to invest in drilling and wariness that today’s high prices won’t last, according to industry representatives, analysts and state officials.


“It would be great to produce more domestically,” McDermott said. “(But) it’s so volatile. … We haven’t had any access to capital for years. If we drilled, money would have to come from existing production. It’s a risky business.”


Republicans from energy states have brushed past the industry’s logistical constraints to pin blame for slow U.S. oil growth on Democrats and Biden. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Montana Sen. Steve Daines have called for American energy to be “unleashed” and more public lands opened to drilling. Daines accused Democrats of using the Russia oil ban to cover up a supposed scheme to “ban all oil.”


The U.S. doesn’t import much Russian oil and Biden’s administration has effectively halted new oil or natural gas lease sales from federal lands and waters. But it’s approved almost 4,000 new drilling permits on federal lands and companies have thousands more stockpiled. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said companies should use those permits to “go get more supply out of the ground.”


Federal energy reserves account for about a quarter of U.S. oil, with the remainder coming from private, tribal and state land.


Pumping rates overall slowly increased during Biden’s first year as the industry climbed out of the pandemic, when oil future prices briefly dipped below $0 a barrel.


Obstacles to more U.S. oil are surmountable, according to analysts, yet will take months to work through and it could be late this year or early next before a significant production increase materializes.


“It’s going to be a slower ramp up for fields like ours,” McDermott said. “Everybody in the industry would say if we have a consistent price, then you know what you would get for an extended period of time and it’s easy to make business decisions.”


In the short term, the world’s looking to other sources. The United Arab Emirates said last week it would urge OPEC to consider boosting oil output, which sent oil prices tumbling. Saudi Arabia alone has roughly 2 million barrels a day of additional capacity standing by, said Rice University energy researcher Jim Krane.


By comparison, total U.S. production last year was about 11 million barrels a day.


Even with favorable conditions — strong prices, political pressure and less-cautious shareholders — companies in the U.S. could see production rise by just over 1 million barrels daily by the end of the year, said Robert Johnston with Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.


Some of the biggest U.S. reserves are offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the massive platforms used in deep Gulf waters take years to finance, build and put into place.


A near-term crude boost would have to come from onshore oil resources already developed, such as the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas and the Bakken of North Dakota and Montana, said Andy McConn with Enverus, an energy analytics company whose data is used by industry and government agencies.


Even in those areas, there’s no way to simply crank open the spigot immediately. The most easily accessible reserves already have been drilled, McConn said.


“There’s not a lot of low-hanging fruit,” he said.


Some oil producing regions already were bouncing back as the industry shakes off its pandemic slowdown, particularly the Permian Basin — the nation’s busiest oil patch with 45,000 wells drilled over the past decade, according to the Energy Information Administration. Other oil patches that could see expansions include Oklahoma’s Midcontinent area and Colorado’s D-J Basin, McConn said.


Operators in the Permian Basin described growth as steady since last spring. By January, they topped 5 million barrels a day.


Still, the mood this time around is different. “It’s not a ‘drill baby drill’ type of mentality like there was before,” said Stephen M. Robertson with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association.


Multiple factors are tempering a production boom, he said, including volatile prices, labor issues and longer wait times for parts to be fabricated and supplies shipped. Even the custom cowboy boots favored by some workers have been hard to come by.


“It’s not just one factor that is telling the industry out here what it should do. It’s not just high prices,” Robertson said.


If the conflict in Ukraine drags on, prices stay high and the logistical hurdles are overcome, companies could move into relatively untapped fields, including Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and Utah’s Uinta Basin.


But it won’t be anything like booms that swept through those regions over the past decade, drawing thousands of workers who overwhelmed housing and other services and transformed rural communities into centers of industry.


Larry Scott, an engineer who has worked in the oil business for decades and now represents a portion of the Permian Basin as a Republican in the New Mexico Legislature, said oil and gas companies still have to conquer the labor challenge.


“You can’t ramp up if you can’t find qualified people to do it,” he said.


Cowboy politician 2nd person to go on trial in Jan. 6 riot – By Morgan Lee And Jacques Billeaud Associated Press


An elected official in New Mexico who helped found the group Cowboys for Trump is headed to trial in Washington next week on a charge related to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He plans to show up for court on horseback in a defiant show of support for former President Donald Trump.


Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin has been charged with knowingly entering restricted areas of Capitol grounds, one of hundreds of pro-Trump supporters facing charges for disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win. His trial will be the second among the hundreds of people arrested in the riot.


He’s one of at least 10 people charged in the riot who either held public office or ran for a government leadership post in the two and a half years before the attack. They include candidates for mayor in west Texas, city council in Kansas and West Virginia, county commission in Washington state, congressional seats in Florida and statehouses in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. Another Jan. 6 defendant is running this year for a congressional seat in New Hampshire.


Seven of the 10 defendants were accused of entering the Capitol building, and at least five had expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the presidential election. False claims about election security have become prevalent in Republican circles, and the outcome of Griffin’s trial could create political problems for other elected officials ensnared in the massive prosecution.


Griffin has been in office since 2019 and is one of three elected officials responsible for management, administration and budget. During his time in office, he also served on the county’s board for canvassing local election results.


In 2019, he helped found Cowboys for Trump with a group of rodeo acquaintances to spread a conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions. Many of those messages were delivered on horseback.


Griffin, a former rodeo rider and former pastor, plans to drive his horse “Red” to the nation’s capital, as he has in earlier outings in Washington with the group, and then ride the animal to the courthouse.


He rejects Biden’s 2020 election and believes Trump to be the real winner, despite a lack of evidence and statements by elected officials, local elections leaders and Trump’s own attorney general that the results were correct.


Griffin voted in January with his county commission to hire a private contractor to review the 2020 presidential election in Otero County — where Trump won with a 62% share — with door-to-door canvassing that has triggered concerns about voter intimidation. The review is still being conducted.


Prosecutors have submitted a variety of images that show Griffin breaching barricades on the day of the 2021 insurrection — climbing a toppled fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps. Images taken by Griffin’s own videographer show him reveling in the Jan. 6 crowd and using a bullhorn to lead the throngs in prayer.


Matthew Struck, the videographer who accompanied Griffin, has been granted immunity and is expected to testify at the trial, prosecutors said in a filing Thursday.


He doesn’t deny that he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; he admits he entered a barricaded area to reach an outdoor balcony of the Capitol on the afternoon without going inside the building.


But his attorneys have demanded that prosecutors provide first-hand evidence that then-Vice President Mike Pence was still at the Capitol — a prerequisite for the U.S. Secret Service to invoke access restrictions.


Prosecutors say Pence’s exact location at the time the county commissioner entered the Capitol grounds is irrelevant — and that the Secret Service shouldn’t have to disclose sensitive security information concerning the riot response.


Griffin pointedly disagrees.


“People are charged with entering an unauthorized zone and it might not have been an unauthorized zone to begin with — that’s the legal question right now,” Griffin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s really a shame on Mike Pence’s part — individually and personally — he should step up and let us know what time he left the building, unless he’s trying to defend the government and trying to continue to make patriots suffer.”


U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that prosecutors must call a witness to testify who has first-hand knowledge of Pence’s whereabouts during the attack if they want to try Griffin on a charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. Earlier, McFadden rejected Griffin’s accusations of misguided and discriminatory prosecution.


Griffin was arrested on Jan. 17, 2021, by Capitol Police after he returned to Washington in opposition to Biden’s election and inauguration. He spent nearly three weeks in jail before his release pending trial.


Back at home in southern New Mexico, Griffin withstood a recall election attempt. State election regulators sued Griffin over his refusal to register Cowboys for Trump as a political group. Griffin says the group is a for-profit business and that he worries about contributors being identified and harassed.


In early March, Griffin confirmed that he won’t seek election this year as a commissioner or otherwise compete in the 2022 election cycle, saying he had lost faith in the political system.


The fate of other politicians remains unclear. A former legislative candidate in Pennsylvania is now in prison on a 60-day sentence for his presence inside the Capitol building during the riot. A former West Virginia lawmaker who resigned his office three days after joining the mob into the building is charged with one count of civil disorder and due in court on Friday.


Over all, at least 765 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. At least 231 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. At least 119 riot defendants have been sentenced, with 50 of them getting terms of imprisonment of jail time already served.


Approximately 90 others have trial dates. The first trial of a rioter ended with a conviction on all counts.


House panel launches probe of New Mexico 2020 election audit – By Farnoush Amiri And Morgan Lee Associated Press


A congressional oversight committee said Thursday it has opened an investigation into a partisan audit of the 2020 election results that is taking place in New Mexico and was authorized by a Republican-led county commission.


The House Oversight Committee issued a letter to the head of EchoMail, one of the contractors involved in Arizona’s partisan ballot review, requesting the private company produce documents and information regarding its forensic audit in Otero County, New Mexico, by the end of the month.


“The right to vote is protected by the Constitution and is the cornerstone of our democratic system of government,” Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the committee, and Jamie Raskin, the chair of a subcommittee on civil rights, wrote to the company.


The committee said it is looking into potential intimidation by volunteers from a conspiracist group who are going door to door canvassing voters in Otero County and asking intrusive questions.


The company’s forensic audit proposal called for volunteer canvassers from New Mexico Audit Force to go to voters and review voter registration data.


The canvass is already underway, according to lawmakers, and more than 60 county residents have contacted state and local officials expressing concerns about interactions with the canvassers.


The committee’s letter was penned to EchoMail founder V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, who has previously participated in advancing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election as well as his own loss in a Massachusetts state Senate race.


A request for comment from Ayyadurai was not immediately returned Thursday.


Nearly a year and a half after the 2020 general election, the U.S. continues to grapple with bogus claims surrounding Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win. Ballot reviews have been conducted across the country, from Arizona’s Maricopa County to Pennsylvania’s Fulton County.


An Associated Press review of votes cast in battleground states contested by then-President Donald Trump also found too few cases of fraud to affect the outcome.


Trump, a Republican, and his allies have falsely claimed that voting systems or ballot tallies were manipulated to steal the election from him. Judges across the country, of both parties, dismissed those claims. And even Trump’s former attorney general William Barr said a month after the election that there was no indication of widespread fraud that could change the result.


The announcement of the committee’s probe comes weeks after New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, said that many Otero County residents have been caught off guard when approached by canvassers who are affiliated with the New Mexico Audit Force group and claim in some instances to be county employees.


The county commission in January authorized a $49,750 contract for a countywide review of election records and voter registration information linked to the 2020 general election. It accepted a proposal from EchoMail, which was among the contractors hired by Republican Arizona state lawmakers to review the 2020 election in Maricopa County and provide a report on ballot envelope images.


The review in Arizona’s largest county ended in September without producing proof to support Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. The county election department found that nearly every finding by the contractors included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws.


The House Oversight Committee said EchoMail has until March 31 to respond to its letter and hand over the documents requested in the New Mexico probe.


“The Committee is investigating whether your company’s audit and canvass in New Mexico illegally interferes with Americans’ right to vote by spreading disinformation about elections and intimidating voters,” the letter said.


Texas crash victims included new students just branching out – By Colleen Slevin And Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press


Self-disciplined and competitive, Jackson Zinn was all business on the golf course. Despite his big heart for helping others, he could be tough on himself if he wasn’t shooting in the 60s.


Family pastor Rick Long of Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado, said Zinn had just wrapped up a tournament with his University of the Southwest teammates in Texas when he called his father, Greg Zinn, to talk about what he thought had been a disappointing round.


“And he just said, ‘Jackson, you’re amazing. You’re not always going to score the way you need to score. You’ll be great.’ That was their last conversation,” Long said.


About an hour later, the college junior piled into a van with his teammates to head back to New Mexico. It was on a two-lane farm road Tuesday evening that a pickup truck collided head-on with the van, killing Zinn, his coach and five teammates.


Authorities announced Thursday that the truck veered into their lane after a tire blew. An unnamed 13-year-old who was behind the wheel and his passenger, 38-year-old Henrich Siemens of Seminole County, Texas, also died in the fiery crash.


Jackson Zinn was close to his parents and two younger sisters, coached children playing in a special needs soccer league his family organized and was well loved by his co-workers at the Red Robin in suburban Denver where he worked as a waiter when he was home from school, said Long in an interview Thursday.


Zinn transferred to the University of the Southwest after spending one year at a military school in New Mexico, seeing it as an opportunity to both play golf and get a Christian education, he said.


Zinn loved the smell of the golf course and the feel of tees and clubs, and enjoyed being able to relax and play in the church’s annual golf tournament to raise money for Indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon, Long said.


“He said that that’s the one place he could play his game and play it well and not feel the pressure of having to perform because he was doing it for a bigger mission, a bigger reason,” he said.


Most of the students killed in the crash were getting their first taste of life away from home at the private Christian university where on-campus enrollment hovers around 300.


They included freshmen Laci Stone of Nocona, Texas, Travis Garcia of Pleasanton, Texas, Mauricio Sanchez of Mexico, and Tiago Sousa of Portugal. The school and authorities did not release hometowns for Sanchez and Sousa.


Also killed were junior Karisa Raines of Fort Stockton, Texas, and golf coach Tyler James of Hobbs, New Mexico.


The two injured students were identified by authorities as Dayton Price of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Hayden Underhill of Amherstview, Ontario, Canada.


Garcia was voted Pleasanton High School’s most valuable player last year, when he and his fellow Eagles made their first-ever appearance at the Texas state championships. He was remembered by those who worked with him at a golf club near Pleasanton as a phenomenal kid who made great strides in just a few short years after first picking up a club.


Myles Dumont, manager of golf operations for the River Bend Golf Club. said Thursday that Garcia played a big role in his high school team’s success. He also said the teen didn’t mind spending hours and hours outside, practicing his craft.


“He really just fell in love with the game, and we were all really excited to see where his golf career was going to take him,” Dumont said. “We were really proud of him, really happy to see him have an opportunity to go somewhere to play. The sky was the limit for him.”


Sousa also had an “immense passion for golf,” said Renata Afonso, the head of Escola Secundária de Loulé, a high school he attended on Portugal’s southern coast.


“He was a very dedicated student, very involved in social causes,” she said. “Any school would be delighted to have had him as a student.”


Before coming to New Mexico, Sanchez had played with the Club de Golf Pulgas Pandas, a club in the prosperous city of Aguacalientes in north-central Mexico.


Stone graduated from Nocona High School in 2021, where she played golf, volleyball and softball. Her mother, Chelsi Stone, described her as a ray of sunshine.


With many students away for spring break, the university was planning a gathering next week, while counselors were at the ready to help students before that. Prayers and condolences continued to flood social media sites as separate fundraising efforts were underway by the university as well as friends to help the victims’ families.


On Thursday, around 150 people turned out to honor Zinn at Texas Roadhouse, a Hobbs restaurant where he worked and met his girlfriend of five months.


“He was my heart,” said Maddy Russell, 20, of Hobbs.


Also at the memorial was Russell’s aunt, who had written her niece’s phone number on a piece of paper for Zinn when Russell was too shy to do it. He texted her that day, and soon became a fixture at the family dinner table.


Many who knew Zinn wore Denver Broncos jerseys, including a co-worker who started their friendship with a football rivalry; she’s a Cowboys fan.


“I was from Colorado, and I wasn’t a Bronco fan and he was,” said waitress Kyleen Valdez, 31. “He came in and told us when Russell Wilson was going to be on the team, they’re going to win again. They’re going to win the Super Bowl. And that’s just that’s how everybody knows Jackson — sports, not just golf.”


The mourners released around 100 blue and orange balloons into the cold, whipping wind of eastern New Mexico, and they soon disappeared into the horizon.


03

Dallas County DA among criminal justice leaders urging Texas court to block directive targeting parents of transgender children

Gov. Greg Abbott had directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate certain gender-affirming care as child abuse.


DALLAS — Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot is among a group of over 90 criminal justice leaders from around the U.S. who are urging a court in Texas to block a directive from the governor that targets parents of transgender children.


The bipartisan group includes law enforcement leaders, attorneys general and former Department of Justice officials, according a release from the Dallas County DA’s office.


An amicus brief was filed by the group in support of an argument for a temporary injunction against Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) investigate certain gender-affirming care as child abuse.


In late February, Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion that identified puberty blockers and medical procedures meant to change a child’s sex as child abuse under the Texas Family Code.


“The Texas directives at issue in this case threaten the very core of our system of justice and threaten to erode the foundational trust in government that is integral to promoting public safety,” the group stated in their brief.


“I am proud to sign my name to this important legal document,” Creuzot said in his own statement. “As I have made clear previously, my office will not be prosecuting parents or medical providers in accordance with this harmful directive.”


One North Texas family with a transgender child said this week they were being investigated by officials for their parenting choices, and that Child Protective Services notified them about allegations of child abuse.


The family’s attorney told WFAA that the family wasn’t given much notice before a CPS investigator arrived at their home. The family also consented to a search of their home.


That family’s attorney also said he is representing another family that’s currently being investigated.


When reached by WFAA, the DFPS said it could not comment on how many families are being investigated due to litigation.

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