TIERRA AMARILLA – A District Court judge has banned the spouse of an Española city councilor from coming near polling places during the June primary election season.
Judge T. Glenn Ellington also barred Laura Seeds from campaigning for anyone for now. She is the wife of Española councilor and recent mayoral candidates Robert Seeds.
Laura Seeds is facing two sets of charges brought over the past two months by the Attorney General’s Office for alleged election-related crimes in 2016, when Robert Seeds won his Española council seat by two votes, and earlier this year, when Robert Seeds lost the March 6 mayor’s race to restaurant owner Javier Sanchez.
She pleaded not guilty to the 2018 election-related charges at a hearing in Tierra Amarilla Tuesday. In February, she pleaded not guilty to alleged voter fraud in 2016.
Last week, a Rio Arriba County grand jury indicted Seeds on her new counts of committing intimidation in a municipal election, coercion of voters and disturbing a polling place.
Assistant Attorney General Peter Valencia, at Tuesday’s hearing, told Ellington that Seeds is accused of trying to get a citizen to change her vote while she was voting at Española City Hall. Her new charges state that the alleged crimes were committed on or around March 2, the recent election’s last day of early voting.
Judge Ellington ruled that because of her new charges, Seeds’ conditions of release pending resolution of her cases now include limited electronic monitoring to ensure she comes no closer than 100 yards from any Rio Arriba County voting place for the June 5 primary election, starting two days before early voting begins on May 19.
Ellington also said Seeds can’t campaign for candidates in the primary and can’t leave New Mexico without notifying the court.
Tuesday’s hearing covered two matters — Seeds’ arraignment on her latest charges and a motion by the Attorney General’s Office’s to revoke her conditions of release set when she was arraigned for first time in February.
The AG’s Office said she broke the rules of her release on her own recognizance by calling City Clerk Anna Squires, who oversees city elections, and asking what Squires told the AG’s Office. The call was made shortly after Seeds received notice that she was being investigated for voter intimidation in the 2018 municipal election.
At her last arraignment, Seeds was instructed that she couldn’t speak to witnesses in her case and could only speak with Squires for business-related purposes. The Seeds run a towing service.
Seeds’ attorney Aaron Wolf said Seeds didn’t think the call was a violation because it wasn’t related to the 2016 election charges. He said it was “not designed” to intimidate Squires and Seeds called her about the new investigation largely because she has anxiety.
But Ellington called the call to Squires “intimidating on its face.” He ruled Seeds can no longer contact any witnesses for any reason. “You need to be very, very careful about your communication with people,” Ellington told Seeds.
Seeds’ charges in relation to the 2016 election, when her husband won his District 4 City Council seat by two votes, include 10 charges of possession of another person’s absentee ballot, one count of conspiracy to violate the municipal election code and two counts of making false statements. She was released on her own recognizance March 13 with the conditions of release.