Duran wants mental health records sealed
SANTA FE — Mental health records concerning former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran will not be released to the public ahead of a sentencing hearing that could hinge on evidence of her self-professed gambling addiction, a state district judge ruled Tuesday in Santa Fe.
Duran has pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and four misdemeanors related to siphoning thousands of dollars from her election account amid a gambling spree.
Defense attorney Erlinda Johnson has asked the court for leniency and no jail time in sentencing Duran, noting that her client sought treatment for a gambling problem after pleading guilty and resigning from office.
District Judge T. Glenn Ellington agreed to keep the health records private, along with a cover letter and a hand-written letter from Duran to the court.
The state attorney general’s office said it may challenge factual information contained in the sealed records at the sentencing, citing alleged inconsistencies with a sentencing memo submitted by Duran’s attorney.
In that memo, Johnson said the 60-year-old Duran fell prey to the predatory tactics by casinos that ensnare older women. Duran, she argued, should be ordered to undergo supervised probation and to provide restitution.
In a Santa Fe courtroom on Tuesday, Johnson sought to clarify that Duran’s gambling problem had already surfaced in 2010, and that it grew worse for undisclosed reasons.
“This worsened as a result of the events addressed in the psychological evaluation in 2012 and 2013,” she said. “We are simply highlighting events that led to the counts of the conviction.”
Monday’s sentencing hearing will be on prominent public display.
Ellington gave permission for a live webcast of the proceedings and said news reporters will be allowed to post Tweets and other updates on social media accounts.
The judge’s office has been keeping track of all correspondence coming in regarding Duran’s case, including phone calls and letters of both support and criticism for the disgraced official.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce was among those who asked the judge to consider Duran’s years of service as a public servant.
On official letterhead, Pearce in his request sent last week noted his time working with Duran as a member of the state Legislature and that she had “shown a commitment to the betterment of the lives of her fellow New Mexicans.”
Patty French, the board chair of the state Public Employee Retirement Association, and former Otero County Democratic Party Chair John Wheeler cited Duran’s compassion for her community and family.
“We can all only hope that our lives are judged on the totality of what we have done and not on one particular phase of our lives,” French wrote.
Two other letters from residents in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and a recorded phone message left with the judge’s office expressed frustration, saying Duran seems unaware of the harm she has inflicted on the credibility of the secretary of state’s office and New Mexico’s reputation. They asked the judge to impose a stiff sentence.
Ellington had ruled previously that Duran can withdraw her guilty pleas if prison time is imposed.
As secretary of state, Duran was one of New Mexico’s highest-ranking elected officials. She won a second term last year and was the first Republican elected to the post since 1928.
She began her political career as a deputy county clerk in southern New Mexico in 1988 and ran for secretary of state on a platform of eliminating voter fraud.