Some 2 1/2 years after former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, lobbyists Elizabeth and Joseph Kupfer and campaign consultant Armando Gutierrez were indicted for alleged misspending of federal election money, the case is only marginally further along than when it was indicted.
Questions about the use of federal Help America Vote Act funds from 2004 to 2006 ultimately led to 50 counts of fraud, embezzlement, money-laundering and conspiracy related to $6 million in contracts.
Vigil-Giron’s attorney, Robert Gorence, contends the case should be dismissed because of repeated delays.
“You can assume prejudice (against Vigil-Giron) as we approach the three-year mark,” he said. “Ms. Vigil-Giron at every hearing has steadfastly asserted her speedy trial rights.”
The first speedy trial motion was filed the day of her arraignment, as was a motion for a bill of particulars or statement of facts — essentially, asking the government to state what benefit she received from the allegedly fraudulent conduct. He has repeatedly said she didn’t get a dime.
“I’d like that to be heard front and center,” he said.
The case now has a judge, Reed Sheppard, the presiding criminal judge in 2nd Judicial District Court, who was assigned to it after the resignation of Judge Albert “Pat” Murdoch.
It has an up-to-speed independent prosecutor, Joseph CampBell, who got the case on a contract with the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which in turn inherited it when Murdoch disqualified the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office from prosecuting it — not because of actual wrongdoing, but because of the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The case has a funding mechanism because the Legislature during the last session said the DA’s Office could request budget increases up to $190,000 from internal fund transfers and up to $500,000 in internal agency transfers from the attorney general “to support the joint powers agreement for the Vigil-Giron, Gutierrez and Kupfer cases.”
What the case needs now is a series of dates for 32 pre-trial motions, some of which, if granted, would dispose of the case. Some will take an hour, others a day or more, attorneys said Wednesday.
High on the list to be heard first is the defense motion to have the case dismissed because of the many delays.
Trial time estimates now stand at somewhere between two weeks, if Vigil-Giron’s case is separated and tried independently of the others, or six weeks if all four defendants are tried together.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez and the Kupfers face federal tax charges and have trial dates — Gutierrez separately from the Kupfers on some counts — in August and October.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal