Attorney general's story of animal cruelty task force strains belief
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King will say just about anything to save his long-shot campaign for governor.
King, a Democrat, concocted an unbelievable story and then last month submitted it to a federal judge in hopes of extricating himself from a civil lawsuit that could strangle his political career.
In his court affidavit, King professes ignorance about the workings of the Attorney General’s Animal Cruelty Task Force. As the organization’s name suggests, King created and chaired this task force. He even put an assistant attorney general in charge of its day-to-day supervision.
But King says in the affidavit that he did not know his task force raided ranches across New Mexico and killed thousands of birds without any proof of wrongdoing or any threat to public safety.
Reyes and Mario Marin, father and son ranchers from Bloomfield in San Juan County, are suing King because of vigilantism.
The Attorney General’s Animal Cruelty Task Force killed about 730 of the Marins’ roosters, hens and chicks. It also stomped 1,000 eggs belonging to the ranchers.
Police officers and task force members armed with guns and even a helicopter bullied the Marins after storming their ranch.
King said in his affidavit that any alleged abuses against the Marins were committed because of a task force member named Heather Ferguson, commanding general of the raids.
“I never delegated any authority of the attorney general’s office to Ms. Ferguson,” King wrote. “I never stated or knowingly implied that Ms. Ferguson had any authority to lead in the enforcement of New Mexico's animal cruelty laws, or to organize law enforcement officials in the enforcement of those laws.
Then King made a claim to stretch everyone’s imagination. He said he was blindsided by the misdeeds of his own task force.
“If I had ever been aware that Ms. Ferguson had represented herself as having any authority flowing from the attorney general’s office or the task force, I would have immediately demanded that she cease such representations and I would have informed any relevant law enforcement agencies,” King said.
My, oh my. King says he knew nothing.
We examined his claim by checking emails that Ferguson sent to him and his aides.
Writing King from a raid in Dona Ana County in April 2009, Ferguson said: “Over 300 roosters have been seized, and coverage should be on all 3 stations tonight starting at 5.”
In another email about the AG’s raiders, she said: “I am flying in some personnel from the Humane Society of the United States to assist, and it’s likely that they are going to bring the camera crew from Animal Planet to film our work.”
While in San Juan County for the raid on the Marins’ ranch, Ferguson kept King informed. “Today’s raid has us continuing to make history. So far it’s estimated that there are at least 1,000 birds at the location and evidence that will lead to felony charges.”
The Marins, we should point out, never were charged with any crime by the San Juan district attorney, Rick Tedrow. No matter. The Attorney General’s Animal Cruelty Task force destroyed $300,000 of their poultry and eggs anyway.
Ferguson had a fanciful story as to why King’s task force slaughtered the Marins’ birds and broke all the eggs. “They’re injecting them with unknown and illegal substances that could threaten the food supply,” she said.
Ferguson, a civilian thug empowered by King, must have been prescient. How else would she know that "an unknown substance” was illegal?
In truth, King’s raiders did no tests to determine if the Marins’ birds had been drugged to make them stronger and meaner for cockfighting. They slaughtered the animals right on the ranch, never bothering with lab work.
King’s animal cruelty task force, it seems, specialized in mass killings of chickens.
During the raids of 2008 and ’09, King sat back and reveled in glowing but absurd publicity about how his task force was wrecking illegal cockfighting rings.
King even boasted in a bio that he “received the national Humane Law Enforcement Award for his work to combat animal abuse and his formation of the Attorney General's Animal Cruelty Task Force.”
For King not to know about the raids, as he now claims, he had to be the Rip Van Winkle of politicians, sleeping through his first term.
Being a clueless administrator is not a qualification to be governor, but King has opted for such a defense.
Son of the late three-term governor Bruce King, Gary King lost in two previous campaigns for the state’s top office. The stench from the animal cruelty task force that King professes to know so little about will sink him for a third time.