New Mexico Tribe Bans Newspaper After Story of Killing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-- The leaders of a small tribal community nestled in northern New Mexico's mesas and red rocks hoped their tribe could heal from the horrific killing of one of their own.

Then the slaying was recounted on the front page of the Jemez Thunder: "Gruesome murder at Jemez Pueblo." In seven paragraphs, the story described how a tribal member stabbed, slashed and disemboweled another man.

In some places, the story might draw outrage for its details. In Jemez Pueblo, the newspaper was also banned.

The tribe was well within its rights as a sovereign government to prohibit, as the governor did, the distribution of the newspaper at the tribal visitors center and a convenience store.

"The pueblos enjoy sovereign immunity where free speech and the First Amendment are concerned," said Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico.

The tribe was in the news just a week ago, when it banned trick-or-treating on Halloween. The tribe said it was not part of its traditional culture and was a safety concern because of the small community's unlit roads.

The community of about 2,500 sits an hour's drive northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city. The tribe deeply embraces its traditions, including preserving their Towa language.
Tribal lands are apart from the U.S. government. Tribes have their own separate governments, and their own laws. The federal government prosecutes violations of crimes such as murder.

The 1,000-circulation, English-language newspaper is based in the nearby non-tribal community of Jemez Springs, sells for 75 cents and usually runs between 24 to 32 pages, said Robert Borden, who owns it along with his wife, Kathleen Wiegner. The Bordens and a reporter make up the staff, although it also pays some columnists.

Borden said he's written positive stories about the pueblo in the past.

He wrote the story about the killing based on an FBI criminal complaint filed in federal court. He noted he also wrote that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It was published at the bottom of the front page of the paper's Oct. 15 edition, below stories about a horse-riding program and artists being sought for a bridge program.

Lucas Toledo, 22, faces a murder charge in the killing of Matthew Panana, 21, on Sept. 29.
Jemez Pueblo Gov. Joshua Madalena banned the sales, saying the story was sensationalized. Madalena said the paper's failure to exercise restraint shows it is "out of touch with the community's perspective."

Borden, who has published the newspaper since 1995, said he was disheartened rather than angry at the response.

He and Madalena were planning to meet Wednesday for what Borden said would be "a wide-ranging discussion."

Madalena said the discussion needs to be held "to make sure the newspaper is respectful toward the pueblo and the other communities" in the 30-mile Jemez Valley.

Madalena said Tuesday the close-knit community did not need to know the details of the killings. He said the story reopened wounds and was hurtful to the tribe.

The community "is hurt by the fact that this occurred at all," Borden responded. "I didn't hurt the community."