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Ex-legislator takes plea deal on new charges

SANTA FE – Already behind bars after being convicted last year of several public corruption charges, former state Sen. Phil Griego has struck a plea deal with the Attorney General’s Office on separate charges dealing with spending from the ex-lawmaker’s campaign account.

A state judge would still have to sign off on the plea deal at a hearing scheduled for later this month and, if the plea is approved, decide how much of an additional sentence should be imposed.

But under the terms of the deal, Griego would avoid having to go through another trial and would face a maximum of 18 months of an additional prison time. He could have that cut in half under day-for-day “good time” incentives, his attorney said Thursday.

“He’s already in prison,” attorney Tom Clark said. “A second trial would be outrageously expensive.”

Griego, 70, a Democrat from rural San Miguel County, was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison and more than $47,000 in fines after being convicted last year on fraud, bribery and other public corruption charges.

He is incarcerated at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, in Los Lunas, which has special units for elderly inmates and those in poor health. He is scheduled to be released in November.

Griego’s son died while he was in state custody, but Clark said Griego has been serving his sentence without complaint.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas said Thursday that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the pending plea deal.

Griego, who served 18 years in the state Senate before resigning in March 2015 under the cloud of an ethics investigation, was indicted last summer by a grand jury on the additional charges.

The charges include perjury, fraud and embezzlement and stem from his allegedly pocketing money from his campaign account and lying about it on campaign finance reports that are required by state law to be filed periodically by candidates.

Specifically, Griego is accused of improperly pocketing roughly $9,137 in campaign funds from 2012 through 2014 and lying about it repeatedly on the mandatory reports. In at least one instance, the AG’s Office believes Griego got money from his campaign account by setting up a political committee to serve as a slush fund of sorts.

Meanwhile, another misdemeanor charge alleges he spent $1,400 in campaign funds on vehicle maintenance – five months after he resigned from the Senate.

The Attorney General’s Office investigated the allegations after receiving a 2016 referral from then-Secretary of State Brad Winter

District Judge Brett Loveless will preside over the guilty plea hearing, which is scheduled for Aug. 20 in Albuquerque.

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