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Padilla case on hold as AG’s Office pursues appeal

SANTA FE – The public corruption case against former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla is temporarily on hold, after Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office filed a notice to appeal a state judge’s decision to dismiss some of the charges in the case.

Demesia Padilla

Jury selection for a trial on the remaining charges against Padilla had been scheduled for next month but was canceled, and the case could now take months – if not years – to be resolved.

“Demesia Padilla was appointed to serve the public interest, and she should not receive preferential treatment under the rule of law,” said AG’s Office spokesman David Carl. “We look forward to the high court weighing in on matters of public corruption.”

District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer last month dismissed five of the eight criminal counts against Padilla, saying the Attorney General’s Office had filed some misdemeanor charges against her under parts of the state’s Governmental Conduct Act that are not supposed to be used as a weapon by prosecutors.

However, Balderas immediately said he would appeal the dismissal of the ethics charges to a higher court, and the AG’s Office followed up by filing its notice this month that it plans to contest the ruling to the Court of Appeals, which has in recent years dealt with a backlog of cases.

Meanwhile, two of the remaining criminal charges against Padilla were later dismissed for other reasons, leaving the former tax secretary facing just one felony charge: engaging in an official act for personal financial gain.

Padilla was ex-Gov. Susana Martinez’s initial pick in 2011 to lead the state Taxation and Revenue Department and held the Cabinet position for nearly six years.

After a lengthy investigation, Padilla was charged by the AG’s Office in June 2018 with embezzling more than $25,000 from a Bernalillo-based company, Harold’s Grading & Trucking, and using her appointed position to push for favorable tax treatment.

She had previously resigned from the Taxation and Revenue Department in December 2016, shortly after state investigators raided the agency’s office in Santa Fe in search of tax documents connected to Padilla and her husband.

Padilla has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, and her attorney, Paul Kennedy of Albuquerque, has filed several procedural motions in mounting her defense.

One motion accuses AG’s Office investigators of improper conduct by secretly recording Kennedy’s conversation with Padilla – with a coffeepot outfitted with a recording device – during a break in an interview at the Attorney General’s Office in Albuquerque before Padilla was arrested.

The judge has not ruled on that motion, but she ordered the AG’s Office to make the recording devices available for Padilla’s legal team to inspect.

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