Overloaded public defender’s office was years in the making

Decades worth of warnings about the danger of underfunding public defenders finally came to a climax last month, when a district court judge held Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur in contempt of court after Baur, the agency head, said he could not ethically take a handful of cases in rural New Mexico. New Mexico’s continued weak budget suggests that the state’s Law Offices of the Public Defender is unlikely to receive more resources any time soon. But according to leading criminal defense attorneys, public defenders were never a priority in the state budget even during better economic times. The recent flashpoint was when Baur showed up to the 5th Judicial District Court in Lovington to represent Michelle Sosa. Sosa was on probation for a previous aggravated battery conviction and tested positive for methamphetamines.

Griego waives arraignment in criminal trial

Former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego successfully waived his arraignment for a criminal trial involving a handful of felonies including bribery and  fraud charges. Griego’s attorney Tom Clark told NM Political Report on Tuesday that a motion to waive the arraignment was filed earlier in the week, acknowledging the charges against the former lawmaker and entering a not-guilty plea. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the New Mexico Attorney General’s office confirmed that Griego waived his right to be formally arraigned. The hearing scheduled for Friday will be vacated. On the last day of the preliminary hearing where District Court Judge Brett Loveless said there was probable cause to move forward on a trial, the judge suggested that Griego did not seem to pose a risk to the public and is not likely to flee the state.

Former state senator will face trial on nine public corruption charges

SANTA FE — A district court judge ruled Friday there was probable cause to move forward with a criminal case against a former state senator on all but one count in a public corruption case. District Court Judge Brett Loveless made the ruling after the fourth and final day of the preliminary hearings in the criminal case against former State Senator Phil Griego. He said that he will issue an order for a trial early next week. This is a breaking news story. More information may be added.

Lawmaker who carried legislation to allow sale of state building comes to Griego’s defense

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.

Case against former state senator sees first in a string of hearings

The first day of hearings related to the case against former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego wrapped up Monday afternoon after the court heard from four witnesses, including one state senator. Second Judicial District Court Judge Brett Loveless heard arguments from prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office as well as legal counsel for Griego. The day was spent by prosecution asking their own witnesses questions in an attempt to show that Griego, a Democrat from San Jose, willingly broke state law by pushing for legislation that financially benefited him personally. Zach Jones, an assistant Attorney General, opened the hearing by portraying Griego as capable and business savvy lawmaker. “Evidence will show he was a legislator that could get things done,” Jones told the court.