On July 14, 2008, Margaret Kegel, then the domestic relations hearing officer for the 1st Judicial District Court, filed a report with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office alleging stalking and harassment by Gonze.
In her statement to police, Kegel said Gonze resented his treatment by the courts dating to his 2002 custody fight; she said Gonze belonged to fathers’ rights groups “with a history of using threats and intimidation.”
Twice in 2008, Kegel told police, Gonze “stared at her with a look of hatred and scared her son” at a day camp their children both attended. She claims he drove by her slowly as she ran errands. Most significantly, she claimed, Gonze attacked her via an anonymous advertisement in The Santa Fe New Mexican.
The May 15, 2007 ad specifically mentioned Kegel under the headline: “Mistreated In Court? Speak Up Now!” It directed complaints about Kegel’s performance to her supervisor, Family Court Judge Raymond Ortiz.
Judge Ortiz personally asked the New Mexican about the 2007 ad, Kegel says, because it could have been construed as having been placed by the court. Ortiz did not return SFR’s messages.
Meanwhile, in 2006 and 2007, the New Mexican ran approximately two dozen letters criticizing the 1st District family court, along with the legal system’s treatment of domestic violence and child support cases. Around that time, Gonze noted in court filings, Kegel’s court granted his first wife a protection order against him. (The order may have been expunged, as district court does not have the file.)
SFR checked the letters and guest columns from the New Mexican from this time period regarding family and domestic violence court. There is strong evidence some of the authors are not real people.
One May 6, 2007 letter almost precisely echoes the anti-Kegel ad. The letter is signed “David Huntington,” Santa Fe. Huntington seems to be a non-person. The Nexis database—a trove of public and commercial data used by debt collectors, private investigators, law firms and newspapers—returns no results for that name within 50 miles of Santa Fe. Google also turns up nothing. There is no such name in a 2006 Santa Fe phone book. No such person ever entered the New Mexico court system.
Gonze’s second ex, Leticia López, tells SFR she suspects Gonze used a number of false names to attack his opponents on the opinion pages of the New Mexican.
While López—who over the years worked at the New Mexican as an assistant news editor and copy editor, among other positions—never personally witnessed her ex writing pseudonymous letters, she tells SFR he implied having done so several times. “I asked him about [the letters] and said, ‘You have to stop; I work at the New Mexican,’ she tells SFR. Gonze promised to stop, she says.
But the letters continued; the questionable ones weren’t retracted, even though several sources tell SFR some New Mexican editors had been made aware that some of them might have been fishy.
SFR’s call to Managing Editor Rob Dean was returned by Public Editor Camille Flores, who oversees letters to the editor.
“During the time these things were being submitted and appeared in the paper, it was not brought to my attention [that some names might be false],” Flores tells SFR. “I never felt there was a campaign going on…I can say we received many letters with much more specific information that we chose not to run.”
Kegel says the letters prompted her District Court supervisors to evaluate her performance. The evaluation, she says, came out fine. But “over the long run,” Kegel says, the chorus of jeers contributed to her forced resignation this year.
“There was a lingering perception by judges and court staff that there was this group of people who were very unhappy with my work, when in fact it was probably one person who took the time to try to cause a problem because he was unhappy with my decision,” Kegel, who is highly regarded by local victims’ advocates, tells SFR.
Kegel also suspects Gonze wrote some of the letters:
“They weren’t signed by anyone who ever appeared before me, and most of them were people who don’t exist at all. The few that were left, it would be hard to tell, because they were names a lot of people might’ve had,” she says.
One such letter, titled “Curb Kegel,” appeared April 8, 2007 under the name “Ron Burman,” Santa Fe. No person by that name turns up in searches of public and court records, including in the domestic violence court. This is the clincher, because “Burman” claimed personal experience with Kegel’s “reign of terror” in the 1st Judicial District. “I saw Kegel ignore proof of abuse by my wife. When I strongly complained about the abuse, Kegel found me guilty of ‘domestic violence’ merely for complaining,” Burman wrote.
On at least two occasions, SFR may also have been duped, despite requiring would-be correspondents to include an address and phone number with their letters. “Your cover story on domestic violence is wrong where it states ‘the vast majority of violent abusers are men,’” one letter began.
The letter, which cited several DV-denier websites mentioned in the New Mexican letters, was signed “Florence Vigil,” for whom there also are no public records.
While SFR cannot verify Kegel or López’ suspicion that Gonze was involved with the bogus letters, Gonze made it known fathers’ rights was an issue to which he was dedicated.