SANTA FE, N.M. — Sandoval County commission candidate Gary Miles is suing a Placitas resident who adopted feral horses from him even while he faces a felony charge in connection with another adoption effort.
Miles’ lawsuit filed in District Court in Sandoval County in late February claims Juliet Jones violated terms of an agreement to adopt two horses by failing to erect fencing or a shelter, rounding up additional horses for other people and not getting one of the horses gelded.
Miles is running as a Republican for the District 1 Sandoval County commission seat to replace Democrat Orlando Lucero, who is term limited. He will face Democrat James Dominguez of Bernalillo in the general election.
He has long been an outspoken advocate for horses to continue roaming free in Placitas. Since August he has purchased through auction around 60 horses the state Livestock Board picked up from community residents’ properties, according to Livestock Board Director Ray Baca.
In November, he was charged with bribery of a witness stemming from texts he sent to a Placitas couple who were trying to adopt horses from him.
Miles said in the texts that Mark and Delilah Anthony could get the horses if they dropped harassment charges they had filed against a third party.
Miles has pleaded not guilty to the charge and waived his right to appear at an arraignment in Sandoval County District Court in late April. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing in September, according to court documents.
His attorney, Colin Hunter of the Barnett Law Firm, said the case is without merit.
“This case is more to do with intense feelings about the wild horses in Placitas and nothing to do with any criminal conduct by Mr. Miles,” Hunter said.
In his lawsuit against Jones, Miles said he wrote to her demanding she remedy the violations to their agreement and claimed that communications had broken down.
He asked for mediation, arbitration or an award of damages or other remedies provided by the agreement. The agreement Jones and Miles signed in November waived an adoption fee but provided for $5,000 in liquidated damages for breach of any of certain listed conditions.
The conditions included not rounding up or holding any more “wild, feral or free-roaming horses,” having a 6-foot fence in place within 40 days, providing food and water and having the horses gelded by a veterinarian within 60 days.
Jones responded, denying Miles claims. She said she has spent $1,000 to build a shelter and was building a fence. She said she was having difficulty getting a vet to geld the horse because he was not halter broken.
“I have more than fulfilled my responsible horse obligations and am in process of the last: gelding,” Jones said in her response.
She claimed she was forced into signing the adoption agreement against her will and believes that the contract was “invalid and unlawful.” She said she negotiated for the horses with a representative of the New Mexico Livestock Board.
Some Placitas residents have raised concerns that the free-roaming animals were damaging the land and posed a danger by grazing beside the roads. Some have collected horses on their property and asked the Livestock Board to take them.
The Livestock Board then picks up animals from those properties and advertises to find the owners. If no owner appears, they auction the horses. Jones claimed Miles outbid her, offering $200 per horse.
Livestock Board Director Baca said Miles has bid $5 and $150 per animal on the horses he has obtained from the agency since August.