Editorial: Duran should serve her full sentence
Dianna Duran has never accepted responsibility for her crimes.
When she was first accused of siphoning money from her campaign accounts to pay off gambling debts across the state, Duran, through her attorney, claimed the whole thing was simply a partisan attack by a Democratic attorney general against a Republican secretary of state.
Even after she was convicted, Duran continued to insist her crimes weren’t really public corruption, but were instead the actions of an addict in the throes of a gambling addiction. Nobody was really hurt, she said.
District Judge T. Glenn Ellington noticed the trend.
“Many of your statements follow a pattern of rationalization, an excuse I hear from many addicts,” the judge said.
Duran, who originally faced 64 criminal charges, accepted a plea deal in December, pleading guilty to two felony embezzlement charges and four misdemeanors. She could have faced more than eight years in prison for those crimes, but was instead sentenced to just 30 days in jail.
That light sentence angered many New Mexicans, especially when it was learned that Duran would be able to keep her pension.
But, along with the short jail term, the judge also ordered Duran to make four public appearances per month and to serve 2,000 hours of community service. Now, she is requesting the court lessen that punishment.
Erlinda Johnson, her attorney, has argued that the sentence was meant to “shame” Duran, not rehabilitate her. There may be some truth to that. Duran’s crimes were, indeed, shameful. And when discussing her crimes in public, shame would be the appropriate emotion.
But we can see a value to the sentence beyond just its punitive nature. As the chief elections officer in the state, Duran did enormous damage to the public’s confidence in our election system by violating the very laws she was charged with enforcing. Before her personal scandal became public, The Daily Times was the first to reveal the fact that she was not enforcing the state's campaign finance reporting law, which she was accused of violating.
Her talking with various groups throughout the state now may be a way to restore some of the trust and confidence in the system that was damaged by her crimes.
Johnson also claims that the speaking engagements put the former secretary of state at risk, noting that she has received death threats since her conviction. Certainly, everything should be done to ensure the security of Duran and all others who may attend one of her speaking events, and to find and stop those who have been making the threats. But we don’t think Duran should be able to use the public anger she created as an excuse to avoid punishment.
Duran had a choice to make last year. She could accept the plea agreement, or she could take her chances at trial and risk a much longer jail sentence should she be found guilty. She choose to accept the plea agreement, knowing full well what the terms were.
We expect the District Court to ensure that she fully complies with the term of her sentence. Anything less will be an additional outrage.