October 1, 2015

Duran attorney says AG should be pulled from case

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Secretary of State Dianna Duran, courtesy photo

The latest in the saga that is the criminal case involving Secretary of State Dianna Duran is a motion from Duran’s lawyer asking that New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas be removed as the prosecutor.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Courtesy photo.

Duran’s attorney, Erlinda Johnson, filed the motion on Wednesday and asked the court to consider removing Balderas from the case on the grounds that his presence creates a conflict of interest.

Johnson called the relationship between Balderas and Duran “contentious” and argued that Balderas has an ax to grind with Duran.

“The acrimony between Ms. Duran and AG Balderas has continued for months, now giving ride to questions about this prosecutorial agencies bias against Ms. Duran,” the motion states.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office discounted the claims by Duran’s attorney.

“There has never been a conflict of interest in our office investigating or prosecuting this matter. We will address our arguments on that issue before the court,” spokesman James Hallinan said. “After the filing of criminal charges, we took additional measures to facilitate the operations of both of our offices.”

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. Courtesy photo.

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. Courtesy photo.

“It was becoming more and more difficult to effectively continue representation of the Secretary of State’s Office while prosecuting this case,” Hallinan continued.

The motion came shortly after Balderas informed Duran he was rejecting a number of cases her office referred to him. Johnson told the Albuquerque Journal that the AG’s Office sent the letter after they learned of Johnson’s intention on having Balderas removed from the case.

The move by Balderas to refuse those cases also came under fire in the court document.

Johnson further argued Balderas could have simply assigned the case to a district attorney and this would have alleviated any perception of personal bias.

“However, the Attorney General’s Office chose to forsake the obligations he was elected to fulfill for one case, charging primarily misdemeanors but against a political adversary,” Johnson wrote.

In support of her argument to remove Balderas, Johnson cited an instance when the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that, then-District Attorney and current governor, Susana Martinez was forced to step down as a prosecutor against one of her former employees.

In an email to New Mexico Political Report, Johnson added that her client has not been provided the opportunity to amend her campaign finance reports and that news outlets have misconstrued the dollar amount that is in question.

“Keep in mind that the allegations don’t revolve around hundreds of thousands of dollars as portrayed by the media. It is actually less than $12,000,” Johnson said.

Still, she maintains that “Ms. Duran is innocent of criminal wrongdoing.”