A state representative seemed to defend the actions of a former state senator who prosecutors say broke the law by benefiting from a real estate deal made possible by legislation.
Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the legislation that prosecutors say was pushed—behind the scenes—by former State Senator Phil Griego. Trujillo testified Thursday that Griego asked him to carry legislation that would authorize the sale of a state-owned building, but never thought Griego was being nefarious. When Assistant Attorney General Zach Jones asked Trujillo if he would have carried the legislation knowing that Griego would financially benefit, Trujillo said he would.
“Those arrangements are his business not my business,” Trujillo said.
Later, Jones modified his question and asked Trujillo if he would have sponsored the bill if he knew Griego was violating the legislative code of ethics. Trujillo did little to change his answer.
“I’m not a judge of conduct,” Trujillo said.
Wednesday afternoon marked the halfway point of the preliminary hearing regarding the case against Griego. In two days, prosecutors from the New Mexico Attorney General’s office called nearly a dozen witnesses in their attempt to show Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless that Griego personally benefitted from a real estate deal that he allegedly pushed through the legislature.
Griego’s attorney Tom Clark spent most of the day trying to show that Griego never used his influence as a lawmaker to push the legislation to passage and only asked Trujillo to carry the Joint Resolution simply because time was short.
The prosecution also called Phillip Garcia who previously held Griego’s realtor license, and said Griego shorted him on a shared commission involving the sale of the state building. Garcia told the court he accepted less money in commission than he was owed because litigating “wasn’t worth it.”
Lawyers from the AG’s office later called Gordon Meeks, a drafter with Legislative Council Service in an attempt to show that Griego had a behind the scenes hand in pushing the legislation in question. Meeks testified that Griego indeed opened a file for the legislation and Clark was able to show that Griego never contacted Meeks after Trujillo took over sponsorship of the resolution.
Earlier in the morning prosecutors called Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, to the stand, who testified that Griego worked diligently to get the deal approved after the 2014 post-legislative session.
The venue will shift Thursday to Santa Fe and the First Judicial Courthouse, where the final two days of the preliminary hearings will take place and the hearing will take place in Santa Fe for the remaining two days of preliminary hearings. While the witness list is subject to change, Ken Ortiz, the chief of staff for New Mexico’s Secretary of State is expected to take the stand Thursday morning.