October 23, 2015

After guilty plea, Duran defends ‘tremendous’ public career

Joey Peters

Dianna Duran speaking to the press after her guilty plea in October, 2015.

After pleading guilty to two criminal felonies and four misdemeanors, Dianna Duran spoke to reporters about her integrity in 36 years as an elected New Mexico official.

Dianna Duran after her guilty plea.

Joey Peters

Dianna Duran after her guilty plea.

“I am truly, truly honored to have served New Mexicans and I want them to know that none of this, none of this that has been going on for the past few months has anything to do with the integrity of the office and the office that New Mexicans now have as their Secretary of State’s office,” she said to a crowd of reporters outside the Santa Fe District Court minutes after pleading guilty.

Again and again, Duran said the criminal violations she pleaded guilty to—which led to her resignation as Secretary of State late Thursday night—only happened in her personal life and not in her professional capacity.

Duran pleaded guilty to embezzlement and money laundering following charges from Attorney General Hector Balderas that she used campaign money for personal use.

Duran’s plea deal includes five years of probation and allows her to keep her government pension. Her attorney, Erlinda Johnson, dismissed any notions that Duran may have gotten a lenient deal because of her high public position.

“We gave up some significant rights, we gave up a significant potential challenge to the evidence they have,” Johnson said. “It was a give and take and this is how the criminal justice system works.”

The charges against Duran also said that she withdrew large amounts of money at casinos.

Duran would not directly address whether she has a gambling problem other than saying she “recently made some poor personal financial decisions and choices of which I’m sorry about.” She emphasized the word “personal” and stated many times that the money she embezzled wasn’t taxpayer money, but rather donations made to her two successful campaigns for secretary of state.

Duran also stated that she’ll be receiving professional help, but would not say what sort of professional help. Johnson also said all that would be addressed in court during an upcoming sentencing hearing.

“Ms. Duran truly regrets her personal decisions and where we are today,” Johnson said. “People are humans, we all make mistakes.”

Though Duran admitted guilt to criminal conduct, she said she is “entitled” to collect her government pension after 36 years of holding public office.

“I know in my heart, I know and believe that I have done a tremendous job not only as Secretary of State, but in my state senate years and as county clerk and I believe that I am entitled to my retirement pension, as is any other elected official who has done a good job in their elected capacity,” Duran said.

Duran also suggested she would still make a good Secretary of State moving forward.

“I still believe I can conduct my office the way we have for five years, but [the resignation] was part of a plea agreement that again I made for the best interest of my family and the state of New Mexico,” she said.

When one reporter suggested Duran did make a decision in her professional capacity as Secretary of State to not regulate her own campaigns and asked why she was talking about her integrity after making a decision not to abide by the law, Johnson interjected.

“I think you have to understand what personal issues Ms. Duran was going through at the time,” Johnson said.

Again, Johnson argued that Duran committed her crimes as a private citizen and not as a public servant.

“It’s still an offense, it’s still a crime,” Johnson said. “She took donations that were provided to her and she deeply regrets that and takes responsibility.”

Duran also refused to answer a question about whether her own criminal conduct may have caused her to look the other way when her office received campaign finance complaints about other elected officials.

“No, I can’t hear his question,” she said.