ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In early 2004 – more than 15 years before he was charged with embezzling $162,000 from Torrance County throughout his term as sheriff – Heath White was accused of stealing $700 from a man he pulled over for driving while intoxicated.
White was an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department at the time. He resigned from the department in July 2004, while under investigation, rather than be terminated.
These details surfaced in a motion filed by the Attorney General’s Office in 7th Judicial District Court asking the court to order APD to turn over White’s internal affairs file.
Earlier this month, the AG charged White with six felonies, including embezzlement over $20,000, making or permitting false public voucher and receiving stolen property, after an investigation by New Mexico State Police determined he had bought personal guns, security cameras, tools and parts for his truck with public money.
“These allegations – arresting a driver and taking money from him – are similar to this case in that they allege that defendant improperly used his office to enrich himself,” the motion states. “Information in defendant’s APD internal affairs file regarding this or other alleged incidents has potential relevance to this case as other acts evidence of defendant’s misuse of office.”
However, White’s attorney, Sam Bregman, said he believes the Attorney General’s Office is grasping for “something to throw against the wall and hope to god that it sticks.”
“(The motions are) an example of how weak this case is that they have to go back years and years to try and find some kind of other conduct so they can attack his character rather than focusing on the allegations they brought forward,” Bregman told the Journal.
White, who served two terms as Torrance County sheriff, was elected as a magistrate judge in 2018.
On May 10, the New Mexico Supreme Court suspended White without pay following a petition by the New Mexico Judicial Standard Commission.
The case regarding the 2004 allegations against White were sustained by APD and referred to state authorities to determine whether his police officer certification should be suspended or revoked, according to a letter attached to the AG’s motion. It is unclear what action was taken and no one from the Law Enforcement Academy Board or APD responded to requests for more information.
Four months after resigning from APD, White was working as a deputy for the Torrance County Sheriff’s Office. He was the subject of a handful of lawsuits and complaints as a deputy and as sheriff.