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The candidates for Attorney General—incumbent Gary King and Curry County DA Matt Chandler—have traded shots on how effective the AG's office has been in fighting corruption. Here's what's actually going on.
Chandler, in an endorsement interview with SFR yesterday, stated his beef with the status quo.
"We haven't seen too much action on anything from the AG's office," Chandler says. "My opponent's made it very clear, by his lack of action, that he's not going to go after any of his high-ranking friends."
King, who came in last week for his own interview, is quick to defend himself.
"If the charge is [that] I haven't done everything I could do, then it's false," King told SFR staff. "What's enough, in fighting corruption?"
Yesterday, King even released a thorough rundown of the corruption cases he's prosecuted—via the AG's Office website. (Record-touting isn't campaigning...technically.)
SFR figured we'd check in on where some of those cases are now—and (we hope) try to tease out some truth from the campaign rhetoric.
(First, a quick hint on DIY case lookups: In order to check up on any New Mexico court case, visit http://www.nmcourts.gov/caselookup/app and search by name, case number, date or court location. You can visit the relevant courthouse to see the complete case file.)
State of New Mexico vs. Rebecca Vigil-Giron
filed: 8/19/09 in Albuquerque District Court
case no.: D-202-CR-200904022
Vigil-Giron, the former New Mexico Secretary of State, was indicted by a grand jury on 50 counts of fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and other charges. Vigil-Giron, along with lobbyists Joe and Elizabeth Kupfer, is charged with diverting millions of dollars in federal election funds. The Kupfers have alleged a conflict of interest in the AG's role as prosecutor (Elizabeth Kupfer worked for the AG's office, but before King was there).
action: The district court hasn't ruled on the conflict of interest issue, King says, but according to the case record, is scheduled for a Jan. 3 hearing to set the jury trial.
State of New Mexico vs. Vincent "Smiley" Gallegos
filed: 6/19/09 in Albuquerque District Court
case no.: D-202-CR-200902947
Vincent "Smiley" Gallegos, the former director of the now-defunct Region III Housing Authority, a quasi-governmental agency meant to help provide and manage affordable housing, was indicted in June on seven counts of fraud and money laundering. (Click here for some good background info.)
action: In June, Gallegos' attorneys moved to disqualify the AG's office as prosecutor. The court rejected that order, but in August granted Gallegos an interlocutory appeal—that is, an appeal before the trial has concluded—which kicks the case over into the Court of Appeals. At that point, King says, it's "totally out of our hands."
State of New Mexico vs. Jerome D. Block and State of New Mexico vs. Jerome D. Block, Jr.
filed: 4/8/09 in Santa Fe District Court
case no.: D-101-CR-200900137 and 138
After a campaign checkered with missteps, a Santa Fe grand jury indicted current Public Regulation Commissioner and his father last April onn several alleged election code violations and, in Block Jr's case, embezzlement. SFR published extensive coverage on the string of quais-scandals that culminated in the indictment.
action: In February, District Court Judge Michael Vigil dismissed the election-related charges on the grounds that the state's Voter Action Act provides for either civil penalties from the Secretary of State's office or criminal prosecution from the AG's office, but not both. The AG's office has appealed the ruling, arguing that the Secretary of State's fining Block shouldn't preclude criminal charges. Again, the pace of the case now depends on the Court of Appeals.