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AG’s Office, horse slaughter company trade accusations

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico horse slaughter controversy lives on in U.S. District Court, based on activity this month in state court in Santa Fe and federal court in Albuquerque.

Earlier this month, the office of Attorney General Gary King filed pleadings seeking to enforce and modify an injunction entered in the 2013 lawsuit against the Valley Meat Co., which had proposed a horse slaughter operation near Roswell.

The emergency motion said in its opening salvo, “Before the ink on their motion was dry, defendants reneged” on their statement that there were no plans to operate a horse-processing facility.

Valley Meat, Dairy Packing, Mountain View Packing and Ricardo de Los Santos, the attorney general’s Dec. 2 filing says, “simultaneously were busy creating a new shell company, through which they applied for the very same permits to conduct commercial horse slaughter that they had withdrawn only a few weeks earlier.”

The motion asks that any successor company, namely D’Allende Meats of El Paso, be bound by the same terms in the preliminary injunction as Valley Meat and that it be barred it from pursuing permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the New Mexico Environment Department.

The Santa Fe district court entered an order Jan. 17 barring the companies from pursuing a horse slaughter operation.

The Dec. 2 filing by Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff contends Valley Meat and other companies acted with a new “shell” company, D’Allende Meats, and owners Jose Hernandez and Ryoichi Okubo, to sidestep the injunction.

At a minimum, Biernoff suggested, the latest actions by the defendants represent evasion, and at worst “an attempt … to perpetrate a fraud on the court.”

The heated response from the other side suggested that the AG’s Office has engaged in “malicious abuse of process” and “lied to the court.” It promises to seek sanctions.

According to Biernoff’s filing, the Valley Meat attorney responded with “threats,” saying that by the time the dust settles in the litigation, outgoing AG King “will have only succeed(ed) handing off a bucket of liability to (incoming AG Hector) Balderas. This is truly bad form at the 11th hour.”

Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat and D’Allende Meats, could not be reached Wednesday.

He asked to postpone a hearing that was scheduled Wednesday in Santa Fe – a delay opposed by the attorney general – because he is attorney for Aubrey Dunn in the recount of the land commissioner race. According to unofficial results, Dunn defeated incumbent Ray Powell by less than 1 percent.

The Valley Meat/D’Allende lawsuit was removed to federal court and assigned to U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson, a former state district judge in Roswell before his appointment to the federal bench in 2001.

The removal notice suggests the Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution may play a role in the litigation.

D’Allende Meats is not a shell company, according to the removal notice, but a Texas limited liability company “seeking to engage in interstate commerce” and pursue federal permits to operate a New Mexico facility previously operated by Valley Meat.

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