SANTA FE — New Mexico Attorney General Gary King says he knew nothing about raids carried out by his Animal Cruelty Task Force in which hundreds of birds were seized and killed.

King, a Democrat running for governor, filed a court affidavit this month in response to a lawsuit accusing him of an illegal raid in 2009 at a San Juan County ranch.

A father and son, Reyes and Mario Marin, say in their federal lawsuit that about 700 of their roosters, hens, chicks and eggs were crushed by a band of raiders operating under King's authority. This was only one of several raids carried out by King's Animal Cruelty Task Force in 2008 and 2009.

King has not responded to a request for comment, but in his affidavit he said he was unaware that a task force member named Heather Ferguson Greenhood led raids and enlisted the help of certified law enforcement officers.

"If I had ever been aware that Ms. Ferguson had represented herself as having any authority flowing from the attorney general's office or the task force, I would have immediately demanded that she cease such representations, and I would have informed any relevant law enforcement agencies of same," King wrote in his affidavit. "I did not have any knowledge at the time of the alleged raid on the Marins' ranch that Ms. Ferguson or the task force had violated or were violating anyone's constitutional rights.



In their lawsuit, the Marins say King's staff was deeply involved in the task force and its actions. They say the unit was headed by Steve Suttle, one of King's assistant attorneys general.

The Marins say it was Ferguson who directed the raid on their ranch. Even though she was a civilian, she led the sweep that included members of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, the suit says.

"Defendant King designated her to act on behalf of him and on behalf of the Attorney General's Animal Cruelty Task Force in engaging in law enforcement activities related to what Ferguson determined to be animal cruelty, including cockfighting," the Marins' lawsuit says.

They say they were effectively forced to sign a document allowing the destruction of their birds and eggs or else be charged daily fees of thousands of dollars for storage and feeding.

More importantly, the Marins say, they were targeted by Ferguson and her cohorts on King's task force even though they were law-abiding citizens.

They say they were not involved in cockfighting after the New Mexico Legislature outlawed it in 2007. Ferguson and others she deployed in the raid wrongly assumed they were raising birds and using them in cockfights, the Marins said.

They claim their birds were seized illegally by Ferguson and King's task force. Lawyers for the Marins place the value of the birds at $300,000 to $400,000.

In the lawsuit, the Marins say they raised chickens and their eggs for consumption. They also were involved in breeding and selling game fowl, a lawful activity, they said.

King's task force killed the Marins' birds on the claim that they were on steroids or other drugs and could be not be allowed to enter the food chain. No testing was done on the birds, according to the Marins' lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court.

King says his animal cruelty task force was supposed to lobby for legislation to keep animals safe from exploitation, not lead raids.

In addition to the raid in San Juan County, King's task force participated in other aggressive sweeps in which animals were confiscated and killed. One of these occurred in Chaparral in southern New Mexico.

Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at or 505-820-6898. His blog is at