Demesia Padilla is headed to trial.
Friday afternoon, Santa Fe Magistrate Court Judge Donna Bevacqua-Young ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to bind over seven of eight charges to a trial in state District Court.
The judge dropped one of the most serious felony counts, embezzlement, ruling that a similar charge—accessing a computer with the intent to defraud or embezzle—was based on the same evidence.
"So no embezzlement charge?" Padilla asked her lawyer, Paul Kennedy, as the judge read her decision. She let out a deep sigh when Kennedy nodded. Padilla walked swiftly out of the courtroom after the five-day evidentiary hearing. Kennedy had no comment.
Even considering the dismissed embezzlement charge, Padilla faces more than 15 years in prison if she's given the maximum sentence on all charges, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.
The Office of the Attorney General believes Padilla transferred more than $25,000 from the bank account of a client in her private accounting business to her personal credit card account, then used her position as Secretary of Taxation and Revenue to try to sidetrack an audit of the client by her department.
Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses during the preliminary hearing, including several members of the family that owns the business for which Padilla was handling finances and tax returns, Harold's Grading and Trucking.
Harold Dominguez testified on the first day of the hearing that he'd given Padilla broad access to his finances from 2011 until the day he fired her in February of 2013.
"We treated her like family," Dominguez told the court, adding neither he nor his wife used the internet to conduct banking. He testified that he didn't have an email address or know how to access the internet.
Padilla faces a fourth-degree felony count of using her office for personal gain, the computer charge—which is a second-degree felony—and five lesser charges of violating the ethical principles of public service due to a lack of integrity.
"We appreciate the careful consideration Judge Bevacqua-Young gave this matter, and we now look forward to presenting evidence to a jury at trial," Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a written statement.
It will be the third major public corruption trial for Balderas' office, which won convictions against former state Sen. Phil Griego for using his office to influence a real estate deal that earned him a $53,000 payday, as well as a plea deal from ex-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who admitted to improperly handling money from her campaign bank account, using it to fund a gambling habit.
The trial, which has not been scheduled, will be before a jury and state District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer.