Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez is taking on Facebook in his battle against the New Mexico Civil Guard, which he says is breaking the law by acting as a self-appointed military force in the state.

The Albuquerque-based prosecutor filed a petition Monday asking a California Superior Court judge to force the social media behemoth to comply with a subpoena from his office that seeks information regarding accounts set up by the right-wing militia group and its members.

Torrez said militia members used Facebook to recruit, organize and direct members in addition to telling them where to meet and how to prepare themselves ahead of protests.

The prosecutor said at a news conference Monday the company took down pages associated with the Civil Guard because the accounts violated Facebook’s own polices regarding dangerous individuals and organizations. But he added Facebook has refused to provide information he seeks about who set up and controlled the accounts.

“Facebook is asking Congress and the American people to trust it to regulate extremist content on its platform and yet refuses to turn over basic account information about an identified extremist group that used that same platform to recruit, organize and direct its members to engage in unlawful activity,” he wrote in a news statement.

Torrez said he disagrees with Facebook’s argument that the Stored Communication Act shields the company from producing the information and finds it “hard to believe that a trillion dollar tech company cannot retrieve account information about a group that the company removed from the platform because of its extremist activities.

“Either they have the records and won’t turn them over,” Torrez wrote in his statement, “or they permanently destroyed the records, which begs the question of how Facebook intends to prevent members of this extremist group from opening new accounts in the future.”

Torrez said Monday he offered the company’s Chief Technology Officer the opportunity to sign a sworn affidavit affirming the company had searched for the records and been unable to find them but Facebook declined, so he is seeking enforcement through the courts.

The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center has joined Torrez’s office in petitioning the California Superior Court to order Facebook to produce the records.

A Facebook spokesman defended the company’s practices.

“We preserve account information in response to a request from law enforcement and will provide it, in accordance with applicable law and our terms, when we receive valid legal process,” he said. “When we preserve data we do so for a period of time, which can be extended at the request of law enforcement.”

The district attorney for Bernalillo County said he wants to use the information to prove his claims in a civil complaint he filed against the Civil Guard in July 2020, asking a state District Court to find the group is breaking state law by acting as self-appointed law enforcement officers at protests.

He filed the civil action after members of the New Mexico Civil Guard — which he estimates has 150 to 200 members statewide — appeared armed and dressed in military gear at a June 2020 protest in Albuquerque regarding the statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, where a man was shot and wounded.

“Numerous members of the [New Mexico Civil Guard] attended the protest as a private vigilante or paramilitary unit wearing matching camouflage attire and sporting assault rifles and other military-style gear,” Torrez said in his complaint.

Paul Kennedy, the attorney defending New Mexico Civil Guard against Torrez’s complaint, has filed a counterclaim accusing Torrez of violating his clients’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly by detaining them and seizing their weapons without a warrant following the shooting.

Kennedy did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Torrez said he hopes to be able to argue his case to the California Superior Court sometimes in the spring.

(5) comments

Lupe Molina

Good for this DA. NM Civil Guard are a bunch of jobless leeches.

Mike Johnson

Yes, indeed, and doubly good since Facebook enables and encourages other jobless leeches, like BLM, to organize riots, looting, and arson. Take them out of business.

Richard Reinders

[thumbup][thumbup] what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Chris Mechels

Where is the NM Attorney General?? This seems bigger than Bernalillo County.

Gene Hill

Good for Taurus. Those creeps were using their Facebook page to organize an event to harass a native American UNM professor at her home. They were way beyond the bounds of free speech and none of their leadership should be on FB again.

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