July 1, 2016

Legislators, others scheduled to testify in Griego corruption trial

Prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, a group of legislators, legislative support staff and one journalist are set to testify in the case against former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego next week.

Phil Griego

Phil Griego

According to a document filed by an attorney for the Legislative Council Service (LCS) earlier this week, 14 legislators and administrative staff who were called to testify are represented by Thomas Hnasko, counsel for LCS.

Hnasko told NM Political Report that’s hard to say who if anyone he represents will decline to answer questions based on a speech and debate clause from state law that protects legislators from consequences on actions they make as legislators. He added that he doesn’t foresee many problems with lawmakers answering questions in court.

“All legislators want to be as open as possible,” Hnasko said.

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said he plans on testifying without using the clause because his knowledge of Griego’s real estate seal and the subsequent Senate vote is minimal. He told NM Political Report that he met with LCS counsel on Wednesday and realized the scope of his knowledge of the situation.

“How little I knew about this became clear today,” Ortiz y Pino said on Wednesday over the phone.

Hnasko said at least two people on the witness list were removed at the request of the AG’s office. NM Political Report is still waiting for confirmation from an AG spokesman that Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Senate Chief Clerk Lanore Naranjo were removed from their witness list. We will add the AG’s response when we receive it.

Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, was the only lawmaker listed on the AG’s witness list not listed as being represented by Hnasko. Martinez announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection after he was hired as the Bernalillo County Attorney. Martinez could not be reached for comment. Hnasko said he was not informed that Martinez was served with a subpoena.

Besides Ortiz y Pino and Papen, the lawmakers that Hnasko said he represented Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming.

Independent journalist Peter St. Cyr was also called to testify regarding two interviews he conducted with Griego. It’s still unclear what, if any, testimony St. Cyr will provide. Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless is expected to make a decision before Tuesday’s hearing whether St. Cyr will be required to testify on recording already made public, a non-published interview or both.

St. Cyr’s lawyer, Colin Hunter, filed a motion last week to quash the motion to subpoena information regarding both interviews.

In a hearing earlier this week Hunter argued that St. Cyr is protected, as a journalist, from giving up his notes or testifying about a journalistic source.

Hunter said it’s all speculation until Loveless makes a decision, but that he would leave it up to St. Cyr as to whether he would answer questions.

“It’s really a judgment call for Peter,” Hunter said.

The AG’s office called on St. Cyr to authenticate a recorded conversation between St. Cyr and Griego that was posted to St. Cyr’s Twitter account. The AG’s office also wants St. Cyr to answer questions regarding a conversation with Griego that is referenced in the recording. Hunter said if Loveless dismissed St. Cyr from the case it would be a “win outright” but it would also be a partial win if St. Cyr is only required to authenticate his recording.