December 30, 2015

Dianna Duran’s downfall is our top story of the year

Joey Peters

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

It would be very hard for the saga of Dianna Duran not to be number one this year, even before she went to jail.

We are counted down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team.

Previous: Stories 10-6. Number 5. Number 4. Number 3. Number 2.

Just the charges against the sitting Secretary of State would be enough to be near the top of the list. The resignation put it at a near-lock for number one. And then the guilty pleas and resulting guilty plea made it clear that Duran’s fall from grace was the top story.

Dianna Duran after her guilty plea.

Joey Peters

Dianna Duran after her guilty plea.

When the year began, Duran was sworn in for a second term in the position, having fended off a tough election challenge from Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Thanks to Republicans taking control of the House for the first time in decades, her top priority of voter ID passed the House (but died in the Democratic-controlled Senate). Sure, she faced questions about handing down fines for campaign finance violations, but the criticisms, led by the Farmington Daily-Times seemed to be a mere small blip.

The victories turned out to be short-lived and as summer came to a close, a thunderbolt seemingly out of nowhere.

Hector Balderas charged Duran with 64 counts on multiple crimes tied to using campaign funds for personal use. This happened on a Friday afternoon in late August; less than four months later, Duran sits in jail, after pleading guilty to six counts, including two felonies. She resigned from her position as Secretary of State hours before her guilty plea.

A great look at the background is from a story by our reporters Joey Peters and Andy Lyman on November 5, days after she resigned and plead guilty, called “Downfall: How the campaign finance enforcer became a law breaker.”

The examination of Duran’s career, focused on her nearly five years as Secretary of State.

The weeks after her resignation were filled with questions about what would happen next. Her attitude after pleading guilty to the charges didn’t show much remorse; she instead defended her history in public service.

Dianna Duran mug shot, from Dec. 18, 2015.

Dianna Duran mug shot, from Dec. 18, 2015.

Other politicians said it was time to move forward; but the final push to move forward, where Gov. Susana Martinez would appoint a replacement for Duran, did not happen until December. And her downfall led to questions about why she was able to keep her sizable pension along with promises of pushes to strengthen anti-corruption laws.

Meanwhile, Duran and her friends and legal representation sought to minimize the repercussions of her crimes. Her lawyer wrote a memo that blamed casinos for preying on an older woman and said that Duran is now seeking treatment for her gambling addiction.

Still, Judge Glenn Ellington said that Duran deserved at least some time in jail and, sentenced her to 30 days in jail in addition to years of wearing an electronic monitoring tracker and probation.

Duran had one more chance to extend things, to push the trial into future months. Instead, she opted to instead accept her time in jail. She entered jail on the same day as the infamous Susana Martinez audio tapes took the state by storm, overshadowing Duran’s quiet surrender to jail.

The enduring image of Duran may be those booking photos in the Santa Fe County jail. The former state Senator, former county clerk and former Secretary of State seems, like so many other disgraced politicians, likely to fade out of the public eye except for occasional retrospectives and references by opponents of her political allies.