Gary King Launches Criminal Probe into Missing Emails

Attorney General's Office hasn't announced targets, statutes violated

It looks like someone destroyed government records on purpose in a Las Cruces district attorney office, says Attorney General Gary King, who today launched a criminal investigation into the matter.

There "appears to have been a concerted, directed effort at permanently doing away records or information that belong to a state government agency,"  in the office of the Third Judicial District Attorney, according to what King's General Council Dave Pederson told reporters at an Albuquerque press conference.

Making a brief appearance without answering questions, King said the act "appears not to be the result of an inadvertent clerical error or policy but rather the planned intentional destruction of vital government records."

The announcement follows Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D'Antonio's administrative report that alleged the intentional destruction of email files, hard drives and documents under the administration of his predecessor, Amy Orlando.

D'Antonio says his office discovered the apparent destruction of electronic records after the state's Democratic Party made a request to inspect emails of Orlando, then-district attorney Susana Martinez and a senior investigator in the office. 

Martinez appointed Orlando as the Third Judicial District Attorney after being elected governor in 2011. Orlando lost the 2012 election for that seat to D'Antonio, a Democrat.

Orlando is currently the top lawyer for the Department of Public Safety, an agency under the direction of Gov. Martinez that oversees state police. 

The attorney general's office would not have to solicit help from the state police in the investigation, Pederson says. 

Orlando and Martinez' office have not yet returned requests for comment. Previously Orlando called D'Antionio's report a "political witch hunt."

Following King's campaign and office issuing press releases about the issue, Adam Feldman, who does work for Martinez' campaign, posted records online that showed King signing off on a document allows the attorney general's email system to purge emails after a year. Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt repeated that line to the Las Cruces Sun News this weekend. The Sun News, however, quoted King's office saying that while it deletes emails from active files, it keeps those messages permanently.

"This goes way beyond simply pressing the delete button on certain emails or electronic files," Pederson told reporters.

He maintained the investigation is not politically motivated. Pederson says he didn't want to tell reporters what specific criminal statutes might have been violated because that might tip off individuals. 

There are no current targets in the AG's investigation, Pederson says.
Peter St. Cyr contributed to this report
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