Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Golden Bolo

SANTA FE Something strange happened when Gov. Richardson visited Silver City on September 8. He told the officials there that they “had nothing to worry about” when it came to the grave of Catherine Antrim, mother of Billy the Kid in their Memory Lane Cemetery. There are several reasons why that statement is strange.
First, he was referring to the Billy the Kid Case, which is a murder investigation by the sheriffs of Lincoln and De Baca Counties and a supposedly deputized mayor. The case involves their year-long attempt to get at her bones. How can a governor control the outcome of a criminal case enough to tell officials “not to worry?”
Second, Silver City has plenty of reasons to worry. As many know, the governor joined the Billy the Kid case himself last November by bringing in Bill Robins, a high powered Texas attorney friend of his to speak for the dead Billy the Kid and say he wanted his mother dug up. Since the dead don’t speak in court, the governor had already given Silver City a taste of his operating style.
Third, Silver City officials fought back and refused to be steamrolled by that juggernaut of executive power. The grave was not violated for the governor’s publicity stunt. And in a result which appears undeniably connected, this year the governor line-item vetoed the $250,000 which the legislature had already approved for desperately needed expansion of Memory Lane Cemetery.
Fourth, it was recently reported that Richardson’s Texas lawyer is still on the loose in New Mexico. He appears tired of speaking for the dead, since it was announced on August 12 that he would be representing the three live sheriffs. They plan to return to Silver City if their forensic expert, paid for by the History Channel, finds DNA on an old carpenter’s bench on which dead Billy may have laid.
Meanwhile, there is even more action in the other battleground of the Billy the Kid case -- Fort Sumner, the site of Billy’s grave and the current target of these DNA-crazed investigators. On October 1 of last year Gov. Richardson visited and told Mayor Raymond Lopez he “had nothing to worry about that grave.” It happens that Mayor Lopez was all dressed up for the visit, wearing a limited edition bolo with a golden figure of Billy which was so realistic that the cartridges in his gun belt and the trigger on his Winchester carbine were visible.
A New Mexico artist had made the figures as tokens of appreciation for those opposing the Billy the Kid caper and as a symbol of their solidarity in protecting the history of Billy the Kid and its historic sites. Because of a foundry fluke three figures had turned golden. That was one.
It caught the eye of the highest executive in the state. He asked for it. Mayor Lopez said, “I’ll give it to you if you give your word that you’ll protect Fort Sumner from the case.” The governor did and walked off with the golden bolo.
On February 24 of this year, Richardson’s attorney, Bill Robins, filed in the De Baca County District Court to get at Billy’s bones. And not only was dead Billy a petitioner with the three sheriffs, but outrageously, he was the ONLY petitioner in a document to remove the respected Judge Ricky Purcell.
And now on September 27, Fort Sumner will be fighting for its economic life in that court, as attorneys will present motions to dismiss the ill-advised case. And to raise money for the legal defense, Mayor Lopez had to sell cupcakes.
Of course Mayor Lopez wants that golden bolo back. And for the artist it has become a symbol of broken faith and abuse of power.
So remember, if Gov. Richardson says, “You have nothing to worry about,” start worrying. Because actions speak louder than words.


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