NM Secretary of State could face prison time if convicted

Susan Montoya Bryan The Associated Press
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — One of New Mexico's highest ranking elected officials could face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted of charges that she misused campaign donations for personal gain, according to court documents prosecutors filed Friday.

Prosecutors also submitted arguments as to why the case against Secretary of State Dianna Duran should remain in state district court in Santa Fe.

Duran's attorney has argued that some of the alleged crimes were in other counties, but prosecutors said Duran is responsible for enforcing the state's elections and campaign finance reporting laws, and all of the associated records are maintained by the secretary of state's office in the capital.

"The charges in this case are all intimately linked in a self-reinforcing spiral," prosecutors stated in the documents. "As a candidate, Duran filed false campaign reports. As secretary of state, she allowed these false reports to stand."

The two-term Republican is accused of funneling campaign donations into personal accounts, filing false campaign finance reports and withdrawing large sums of cash while frequenting casinos around the state.

She pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment earlier this week.

It could be December before a preliminary hearing is held to determine if there's probable cause for Duran to be tried on the 64 counts outlined in the complaint.

Duran, who has been absent from her office with the exception of one visit and conference calls with her staff, has remained silent about the accusations.

Her attorney, Erlinda Johnson, has said Duran is still the sitting secretary of state and has not been convicted of any crime.

Aside from pressures to resign, a panel of House lawmakers will be meeting later this month to begin an investigation into the charges as part of impeachment proceedings. The Legislative Council has approved $250,000 for the effort.

According to an amended complaint prosecutors filed Friday, the felony charges Duran faces carry possible sentences of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine if she's convicted. The more than three dozen misdemeanor charges carry possible punishments of less than a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.