June 27, 2016

Judge: AG can subpoena lawmakers in Griego case

Andy Lyman

Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque

An Albuquerque district judge denied a motion by the administrative arm of the New Mexico Legislature to quash subpoenas of legislators to testify in the Phil Griego criminal case.

Phil Griego

Phil Griego

Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless told lawyers with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and an attorney with the Legislative Council Service (LCS) that lawmakers can be subpoenaed but that they can still invoke a privilege to not testify if they choose. Loveless said the court would take it on a “circumstance by circumstance and a question by question” basis.

The motion to quash the subpoenas came from the LCS when they argued that lawmakers are protected by a speech and debate clause which allows them to freely argue and vote on issues in Santa Fe without retaliation.

Clara Moran, director of special prosecution with the AG said her office spoke with a number of lawmakers who said they are not represented by LCS and would likely not avoid testifying.

Griego is facing a number of criminal charges regarding a real estate deal he helped broker while he was a state senator. The AG’s office alleges that Griego personally benefitted by the deal in which he also pushed in the Senate.

Griego resigned after the allegations came to light.

LCS attorney Thomas Hnasko asked the court for “bookends” on testimony in order to provide more guidance to what lawmakers can and cannot discuss.

Griego’s lawyer Thomas Clark told Loveless that he didn’t “really have a dog in that fight.”

“I don’t really care,” Clark said. “That’s my formal opinion.”

An issue regarding whether a journalist will be forced to testify was left open ended as Loveless said he would need to review a transcript of an interview with Griego.

Independent journalist Peter St. Cyr, who originally reported on Griego’s involvement in a real estate deal also filed a motion to quash a subpoena. St. Cyr’s attorney Colin Hunter argued that a conversation that occurred between St. Cyr and Griego in 2015 is considered confidential.

Zach Jones, an attorney with the AG’s office, argued that St. Cyr posted audio of a second conversation and published numerous articles based on conversations between the reporter and former lawmaker, and so never intended for it to be confidential. Jones said St. Cyr didn’t want to testify because it’s a common view that “that’s not the order of things.”

St. Cyr posted a link to the raw audio of a conversation on Twitter. That audio references a separate, non-recorded conversation between St. Cyr and Griego.

Of the non-recorded conversation, Loveless asked, “Isn’t it intended to be confidential?”

Jones insisted that no, neither St. Cyr or Griego intended for that conversation to remain confidential.

Loveless said he would review the transcript of the published conversation and make a decision on St. Cyr’s testimony before the preliminary hearing next week.