New Mexico Indian Affairs appointee accused of rape in 2007

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former governor of a New Mexico pueblo appointed earlier this month to oversee the state's Indian Affairs Department, including its specialized task force addressing crimes against Indigenous women and girls, was accused of rape in 2007.

James Mountain was indicted the following year on charges of kidnapping and aggravated battery after his ex-girlfriend accused him of sexual assault, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. The case was dismissed in 2010 after prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence for Mountain to stand trial.

Mountain did not respond to interview requests from the newspaper and could not immediately be reached Saturday by The Associated Press for comment.

On Friday, as calls for Mountain’s recusal from state leaders and activists continued to surface, a spokesperson for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisahm said the governor was “aware” of the allegations against Mountain but does not intend to withdraw her nomination.

“We hope that those who are leveling concerns would respect the judicial process and acknowledge the results,” Maddy Hayden said in a statement.

Lujan Grisham announced in early February that she had chosen Mountain to be the state’s next secretary of Indian Affairs in a statement highlighting his history as a leader in Pueblo de San Ildefonso. Mountain served as governor 2006-2007 and 2015-2017.

His appointment has not yet been confirmed by the state Senate Rules Committee.

Democratic state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the allegations against Mountain should be “fully vetted."

“I’m very troubled by the idea of having someone with his kind of record in that position that oversees the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force,” she said.

Angel Charley, executive director of the Albuquerque-based Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, told the newspaper on Friday that she met with Mountain in mid-February and asked him to recuse himself. Charley said that Mountain declined to do so.