Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Rep. Sorry for Part in Police Scuffle
By David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE Rep. Bengie Regensberg on Monday apologized to House colleagues and his family for his part in a late night hotel scuffle with police sent to round him up for an important vote.
"I apologize to everyone," said Regensberg, a Mora County contractor and Democrat who complained his hand and wrist were broken in the fracas, from the House floor. "If there was an inconvenience, I'm sorry."
Regensberg said he had never been so "humiliated" as he was late Friday night, when he said State Police officers brought him back to the Capitol from his Santa Fe hotel "half-naked."
The return to the Capitol, where he spoke to House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, in the underground parking garage, followed an altercation at the hotel in which Regensberg alleged three law enforcement officers broke into his room, threw him to the ground and hit and kicked him. Regensberg said he was naked and sober.
The police version was that Regensberg was combative, appeared intoxicated and had one of the officers in a chokehold as they tried to handcuff him. Police also alleged that a hotel employee had told them Regensberg offered the employee $10 to make it look like police had roughed him up but the employee refused.
Regensberg, who said he had left the Capitol early because he wasn't feeling well, denied being intoxicated and making the offer to the hotel employee.
State Police and Capitol security officers often are dispatched to retrieve lawmakers who are absent for key votes. Members typically ask for a "call" of the chamber on such votes, meaning all members not officially excused are required to be present.
The vote late Friday was on a health insurance premium tax, which the House narrowly approved.
The Santa Fe Police Department on Monday concluded its investigation and will forward its findings to the local district attorney, said Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Eric Johnson.
The department will not seek an arrest warrant or criminal charges against Regensberg, Johnson said.
State Police are conducting a separate investigation of the incident, Public Safety Secretary John Denko said.
Regensberg, wearing a cast on his right arm and hand Monday, said he stood behind his original account of the incident.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson stood behind the account given Saturday by State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado.
The chief had said Regensberg unlocked the door of his hotel room for police. Maldonado also said officers did not hit or kick Regensberg and called the circumstances of the lawmaker's injuries "suspect."
Regensberg said he hopes the Legislature will consider changing rules allowing a member to be ordered back to the Capitol to vote.
Regensberg said in an interview that sending State Police officers to retrieve lawmakers is "excessive."
"When something like this happens, it impacts the integrity of the business we do here at the Capitol," Regensberg said. "I just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that what happened wasn't intentional."