Aggravated DWI, unlawful riding, urinating in public, ditching out on court-ordered child-support mediation and breach of contract—these are the charges that Jerome Block Jr., the Democratic nominee to represent District 3 on the Public Regulation Commission, has faced in court over the last decade, SFR has discovered.
Block missed an interview appointment he set with SFR to discuss his record and did not return repeated phone calls prior to deadline.
Each election cycle, the Albuquerque Journal asks candidates in every race a series of standard questions, including whether they have been arrested.
Block told the Journal he had been arrested in 1998 for "suspicion of DUI" and had been found "not guilty."
However, in investigating Block's legal history, both criminal and civil, SFR has uncovered several facts in discordance with Block's public statement.
At 31, Block's official criminal record is clean. However, despite his claims to the Journal, he was not found "not guilty" by a court for his drunk driving arrest.
Not only was his explanation of his exoneration inaccurate, but he failed to disclose a second DWI-related arrest a year later, to which he pleaded guilty. Furthermore, Block's record shows a history of missing court dates, including two failure to appear charges tied to a citation for urinating in public and three skipped court-ordered mediations for a child-support case.
According to the police report filed by the Albuquerque Police Department, on June 26, 1998, an officer witnessed Block drive through a red light into an intersection, then back up. After being pulled over, Block allegedly failed the field sobriety test and told the officer he had consumed two beers and a Long Island Iced Tea. He was arrested and underwent a breath test, which established his blood alcohol content at 0.17, more than double the legal limit, the report says.
Block was charged with aggravated DWI, an offense that currently comes with a mandatory jail sentence. The then-21-year-old pleaded not guilty. The court records show the case was temporarily dismissed with the note, "State not prepared," which typically means the arresting officer was unavailable to attend the hearing.
A week later, on Aug. 9, 1998, Block was cited by APD again, this time for "disorderly conduct," during the city's annual Summerfest. According to the police report, Block was caught urinating on a bush on APD property, five yards from the crowded foot traffic on Civic Plaza.
Albuquerque Metropolitan Court handled both cases separately. Block received two failure to appear charges after missing court dates in the disorderly conduct case. All three charges were abandoned; the records of why have since been destroyed.
Although prosecutors reopened the aggravated DWI case, the charge was dropped under a rule that said that if a defendant isn't adjudicated within six months, the court must dismiss the case.
"Anybody worth their salt—defense attorneys, prosecutors or judges—will tell you it's a game," Linda Atkinson, executive director of the DWI Resource Center in Albuquerque, tells SFR. "Defense attorneys generally knew that if you did delays and you made motions for pre-trial discovery and one of the biggest ones that gets to be a problem is the interview with the police officer, you could just play this waiting game because the minute somebody didn't show up, they could claim the six-month rule and that's how it gets dismissed."
Since 1999, the Second Judicial District Attorney's Office, now headed by Kari Brandenburg, has tightened up the law so fewer cases fall through these cracks.
"We've just adopted new policies on discovery, pretrial interviews and the six-month rules," Brandenburg tells SFR. "Now we can ask the court for an extension."
Nevertheless, Brandenburg says that because the case never went to trial, no judge or jury ever determined guilt one way or another, despite Block's claim to the Journal.
Block also told the Journal: "I am in full support of DUI laws in New Mexico, and I applaud all efforts taken to stop people from drinking and driving. I have learned from that experience from my youth, and I will make sure the event does not repeat itself."
However, Santa Fe County jail and Santa Fe Police Department records show that Block had a second arrest on DWI-related charges one year after the first.
On July 7, 1999, Block was taken into custody for "unlawful riding." SFPD Sgt. Gillian Alessio tells SFR this is a charge reserved for passengers who should have reasonably known the driver was too intoxicated to get behind the steering wheel.
According to the SFPD report, officers had responded to a domestic violence call and, upon arriving, saw a car driven by Robert Martinez, (listed on the report as Block's brother), speed away from the scene. Officers caught up to the vehicle and arrested Block and Martinez. The latter had a blood-alcohol content of 0.21.
Municipal Court records show Block pleaded guilty to the offense of unlawful riding and was assigned one-year probation, 24 hours of community service and alcohol and drug testing. He completed these requirements and the charge was subsequently cleared from his record.
Over the years that followed, Block picked up two speeding tickets, which were both dismissed.
In 2004, however, Block was again in the court system when the mother of one of his children filed motions to set child support and child custody guidelines.
The child was born in November 2002 to Kimberley Gonzales, almost exactly nine months after Block filed for a marriage license with his current wife, Stephanie Block.
The court records show that Block failed to appear at all three mediation hearings set by the court, leading Gonzales' attorney, Caroline Bass, to file a letter with the court accusing Block of intentionally impeding the process.
Soon after, Block retained lawyer Kathrin Kinzer-Ellington, who represented Block while the court set the child support. A year later, when Gonzales filed for an increase in child support, Kinzer-Ellington withdrew from the case. The record shows that Kinzer-Ellington was unable to inform Block directly of her withdrawal and instead notified his father, former Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Sr.
According to Bass, this was typical throughout the case; process servers found it difficult to locate Block, who uses multiple addresses in official records.
Block also was unresponsive in his most recent case.
Throughout his primary campaign, Block was involved in a legal dispute brought by First Community Bank, which claimed that Block had defaulted on two loans totaling $8,150. On Feb. 4, 2008, with no response filed or appearances made by Block, the Bernalillo District Court awarded the bank $430.
Two days later, Block paid up.
Block won the six-way June 3 Democratic primary election for the PRC with 22.8 percent of the vote. While there is no Republican challenger, the New Mexico Green Party nominated activist Rick Lass to run for the seat in the general election.