Plagued by criticism over his handling (or mishandling) of the state's lackluster prosecution against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, Attorney General Gary King responds to his detractors in a statement released today.
"Our office continues in the contention that there is sufficient evidence against Ms. Vigil-Giron that if such evidence were submitted to a jury of her peers it would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she committed the crimes that were charged," King writes in the statement, which is aimed at criticism from a Nov. 18 Albuquerque Journal editorial,
Vigil-Giron and three co-defendants were charged in 2009 with 50 counts of fraud including conspiracy, embezzlement and money laundering. The controversy stems from between 2004-2006, when Vigil-Giron's office paid political consultant Armando Gutierrez $6.3 million in public campaign funds. A 2008 audit found that Gutierrez could only account for less than half of that money.
King stepped on to prosecute the case, but only bumps in the road followed. In March 2011, a judge pulled King off the case over appearances of a conflict of interest (the attorney general serves as an in-house counsel to the secretary of state). Delays eventually led to a district judge clearing Vigil-Giron last month of the charges based on violations of her right to a speedy trail.
"[Taxpayers] have picked up the tab for AG King’s embarrassing inability to try a case in a timely fashion for a defendant and the public alike," the Journal editorial reads.
King, on the other hand, says his office was only responsible for pulling one judge off the case (eight judges presided) "which resulted in a delay of only six days."
"We requested, and got two trial dates (7/2010 and 1/2011), both of which were cancelled at the co-defendants' requests and over our objections," King writes. "The AG’s office was fully prepared to try the case on these dates."
"Even though detractors of the Attorney General’s Office have capitalized on uninformed criticism and innuendo to place the responsibility for all the delay in this case on the AG, it is clear that there were numerous factors that led to the delays. If we intend to improve the outcomes in corruption cases it is important to first be honest with ourselves and the public so we can address the root causes that result in delay that may keep the defendant and the people of the state from having their 'day in court.'"
King, a Democrat who has already raised $160,000 for his 2014 run for governor, has gone on the defensive before. He's periodically criticized for his ability to fumble large-scale corruption lawsuits like Vigil-Giron's. Judging from one part of his statement, he's already in a folksy populist campaign mode:
"The editorial notes with apparent derision that 'The New Mexico Attorney General's Office fought to remain as prosecutor.' Darn tootin' we did!"
Read King's full statement below: