A U.S. district judge has squelched efforts by Gov. Susana Martinez’s former campaign manager to obtain FBI documents about the state’s racino contract with the Downs at Albuquerque for his defense against charges he stole the governor’s campaign emails.
Jamie Estrada is accused of hijacking the campaign’s email domain name and redirecting it to another account he controlled, leading to his indictment on 12 counts of illegally intercepting electronic communications and four counts of lying to FBI agents.
The intercepted emails were distributed by Martinez’s opponents to media outlets after her election. She asked for a federal investigation and said she had never seen many of the emails, including some involving personal purchases she had made online.
Estrada has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial July 15.
“Defendant repeatedly refers to a theory he wishes to advance that Governor Martinez and her staff are behind his prosecution,” U.S. District Judge William “Chip” Johnson wrote in rejecting the request from Estrada’s lawyer.
“It goes without saying that Governor Martinez has no authority to order that federal charges be brought against Defendant. Moreover, considering Governor Martinez’ status as a Republican Governor of a state and considering Attorney General Eric Holder’s status as a high level cabinet officer in the Democrat administration of President Barack Obama, the notion that Governor Martinez is controlling the actions of the Department of Justice in bringing federal charges against Defendant is absurd.”
Johnson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, said the case before the court “is about whether the Defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crimes charged in the Superseding Indictment; nothing more, nothing less.
“Consequently, the Court has no interest in devoting time and resources on matters that are neither relevant nor material to the conduct charged in the Indictment,” Johnson ruled.
Some of the campaign emails, not included in the federal indictment, involved the racino lease, which was put out to bid and approved in 2011 during a public and contentious process.
Estrada’s attorney, Zachary Ives, asked the court to force federal prosecutors to turn over records about the FBI investigation in the controversial 25-year lease between Expo New Mexico, which runs the State Fair, and the Downs at Albuquerque. There have been no subpoenas issued or charges filed as a result of the investigation.
Estrada is charged with hijacking the Martinez campaign’s email domain in 2011, which was largely inactive after the election was over and Martinez took office. Emails sent to various recipient addresses at Susana2010.com began showing up in May 2012. Subsequent emails dealt with topics ranging from the racino lease to a personnel case involving a fired Corrections Department worker.
Estrada served as Martinez’s campaign manager from July to December 2009. Martinez said she fired Estrada, but Ives told the Journal after the indictment t hat Estrada left the campaign on good terms.
Once considered a rising Republican star, Estrada in 2010 sought the GOP nomination for the Public Regulation Commission District 5 seat in southern New Mexico after leaving the Martinez campaign. He lost his election primary bid, while Martinez won hers and went on to become the nation’s first Latina governor.
Ives did not respond to an email seeking comment.