A jury found former State Senator Phil Griego guilty on five of the eight charges he faced after a two-week long corruption trial on Thursday. The jury found Griego guilty on charges of one count each of fraud, bribery, having an interest in a state contract and violating ethical principles of public office. The jury found Griego not guilty on a second charge of fraud, filing false financial disclosure and perjury. Some charges include at least one year of jail time and up to 17 and a half years. This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information comes in.
This week, a grand jury charged former state Sen. Phil Griego with 22 new criminal counts centering mostly on embezzlement and perjury for allegedly using campaign money for personal use and lying about it. In total, Griego faces 19 new felonies and three misdemeanors. This adds to the nine previous corruption counts Griego was charged with last summer by a district court judge in Santa Fe. Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office is prosecuting Griego. The new charges include 13 perjury counts, each of which are fourth-degree felonies, for lying on several of his campaign finance reports between 2012 and 2015.
In an extraordinary maneuver, state senators killed a bill Saturday that they had approved four days earlier after one of them said he had misled his colleagues about connections between Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and real estate developers who stood to benefit from the legislation. Democrats charged that the bill, which would have extended a building lease for state offices in Albuquerque, had turned into an example of pay-to-play politics, while members of Martinez’s administration maintained they had made an honest mistake based on incomplete information. For her part, Martinez said through a spokesman that neither she nor her staff ever discussed with campaign donors the leases addressed in the measure. At issue was an unusual and late-breaking piece of legislation, Senate Bill 430, that met with skepticism at just about every step of its journey through the Capitol until its sudden death Saturday. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Neville, R-Aztec, the bill would have carved out an exception to state rules on renting property.
Members of New Mexico’s citizen Legislature only receive $164 per day for expenses, plus mileage, during the session. But there are other perks to the job. For instance, the industry group called Ski New Mexico last week handed out VIP membership cards to 110 of the 112 state lawmakers, entitling them to two free days of skiing at any of eight ski areas in the state. The total value of the cards was $27,500, according to a lobbyist expense report filed this week by George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico. That expense represented a large portion of the $85,000-plus that lobbyists and the organizations that hire them have reported spending on meals, parties, receptions and gifts for legislators and others so far in the session, which began just over two weeks ago.
With the state wracked by successive corruption scandals involving top officials, several lawmakers seem to agree that this is the year for ethics reform in New Mexico. A committee of the state House of Representatives gave a boost to those hopes Thursday by advancing a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent ethics commission through a constitutional amendment. The commission would have the power to investigate complaints of misconduct by public officials, candidates, lobbyists and contractors. The complaints would be public, and the commission’s opinions could be appealed to the state courts. Campaign finance reform advocates and good government groups have fought for years to create such a body.
A state district court judge set the trial date on corruption for a former state senator for October of 2017, and set aside three weeks to complete the trial. Former State senator Phil Griego faces multiple felonies related to a real estate deal from when he was in office. Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless also dismissed a lawyer representing the legislature Thursday afternoon, ruling information Hnasko obtained while interviewing the San Juan Democrat as part of a legislative ethics hearing would not be part of the discovery process for the trial. Legislative Council Service (LCS) attorney Thomas Hnasko requested to not be interviewed by prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, citing privileged information he obtained through previous interviews. Loveless said the information Hnasko obtained is protected by the opinion work product doctrine, essentially an attorney client privilege.
The case against Phil Griego is growing. The former State Senator may have a “slush fund” where he took money from political donations to a political committee. Griego is already facing trial on nine public corruption charges related to a real estate deal the then-Senator profited from that was only made possible by legislation passed by the Legislature. Now, it appears the investigation is going into the San Jose Democrat’s political campaign accounts. That latest revelation, reported by by the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican, comes after a district judge granted a warrant to an investigator in the AG’s office to examine Griego’s bank records with Griego’s political committee, Advance New Mexico (not to be confused with the Susana-Martinez-aligned Advance New Mexico Now).
Former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego successfully waived his arraignment for a criminal trial involving a handful of felonies including bribery and fraud charges. Griego’s attorney Tom Clark told NM Political Report on Tuesday that a motion to waive the arraignment was filed earlier in the week, acknowledging the charges against the former lawmaker and entering a not-guilty plea. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the New Mexico Attorney General’s office confirmed that Griego waived his right to be formally arraigned. The hearing scheduled for Friday will be vacated. On the last day of the preliminary hearing where District Court Judge Brett Loveless said there was probable cause to move forward on a trial, the judge suggested that Griego did not seem to pose a risk to the public and is not likely to flee the state.
SANTA FE — A district court judge ruled Friday there was probable cause to move forward with a criminal case against a former state senator on all but one count in a public corruption case. District Court Judge Brett Loveless made the ruling after the fourth and final day of the preliminary hearings in the criminal case against former State Senator Phil Griego. He said that he will issue an order for a trial early next week. This is a breaking news story. More information may be added.
A state representative seemed to defend the actions of a former state senator who prosecutors say broke the law by benefiting from a real estate deal made possible by legislation. Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the legislation that prosecutors say was pushed—behind the scenes—by former State Senator Phil Griego. Trujillo testified Thursday that Griego asked him to carry legislation that would authorize the sale of a state-owned building, but never thought Griego was being nefarious. When Assistant Attorney General Zach Jones asked Trujillo if he would have carried the legislation knowing that Griego would financially benefit, Trujillo said he would. “Those arrangements are his business not my business,” Trujillo said.