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Video: Senator pleads with cops not to arrest him on DWI

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — State Sen. Richard Martinez pleaded with an Española police officer not to place him under arrest for driving while intoxicated last week, according to lapel camera footage released Monday.

Martinez, 66, is charged with one count of aggravated DWI and one count of reckless driving after he rear-ended a Jeep carrying two people at the intersection of Paseo de Oñate and Fairview Lane in Española about 10 p.m. Friday. At least one of the people in the other vehicle went to the hospital.

The longtime Democratic senator, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was booked into the Española Holding Facility and was released on his own recognizance, according to court records.

After the wreck, Martinez was taken by ambulance to a local hospital after complaining about a cut on his right hand. Lapel camera video from Española Police Department Officer Dustin Chavez shows Martinez, from his hospital bed, pleading with Chavez to not arrest him.

“At this point now, I’m going to have to arrest you for…” Chavez starts saying.

“For what?” Martinez interrupted.

“For driving under the influence, OK?” Chavez says.

“Why? I’m OK,” Martinez responded.

“Right now I’m going to read you the Implied Consent Act, OK?” Chavez said.

“Please don’t. Please don’t,” Martinez said.

“Please bear with me, OK?” Chavez said.

“Please don’t do that…” Martinez said.

Chavez then starts reading New Mexico’s implied consent act, which states that anyone driving is deemed to have consented to a breath or blood test. It comes into play if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Chavez asks Martinez if he is ready to take a breath test.

“Are you serious? Jesus Christ,” Martinez said.

“Do you agree to these tests?” Chavez asks.

“No,” Martinez said. “Are you really doing this to me?”

“We both have jobs to do,” Chavez said. “… You’re a great person. You’ve always been there.… I have to do this because of my job, OK.”

A woman hospital staffer attending to Martinez during the encounter tells the officer she appreciates him because “my baby’s out there driving on the road right now.”

The senator’s refusal to submit to a breath test is grounds for an aggravated DWI charge under New Mexico law.

Martinez, of Española, is a retired magistrate judge who has spent nearly two decades representing Senate District 5, which includes portions of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties.

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In an ambulance, Sen. Richard Martinez ties to perform a dexterity test at the request of an Española police officer, in this image from officer lapel camera video. (Source: Española Police Department)

As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he plays a crucial role as a gatekeeper for progress on legislation on criminal law, including DWI bills.

Martinez earlier was questioned by Chavez at the scene of the accident before being taken to the hospital. Martinez was still in the driver’s seat of his Mercedes SUV and told the officer he was “coming from town.”

“OK I do smell alcohol emitting from your breath,” Chavez said. “How much have you had to drink tonight?”

“I had like a beer or two,” Martinez said.

Martinez was then loaded onto an ambulance on a stretcher, and Chavez continued to question him and conduct sobriety tests.

“How much have you really had to drink?” Chavez asked.

“I actually had two couple of beers,” Martinez said.

“Two couple of beers,” Chavez said. “How many beers?”

“Like two or three, maybe,” Martinez said. He then said he had three glasses of wine and no beer.

Some of the audio in this video — a minute and five seconds worth — was redacted due to “Protected Health Information,” Española City Clerk Melissa Velasquez said in an email.

In an ambulance, before he’s taken to the Española hospital, the video shows Martinez has obvious trouble performing sobriety tests. He can’t complete a finger dexterity test and when asked to count down from 31 to 14 he can’t get beyond 25 without mistakes.

Martinez, who says on one of the videos that he was coming from a meeting in Santa Fe when the wreck took place, could not be reached for comment Monday.

A criminal complaint filed in Española Magistrate Court, where Martinez was a longtime judge, says the two people in the Jeep that he rear-ended were also taken to the hospital. No one at the EPD was available Monday to say how those two people were doing, and they couldn’t be reached by phone.

The driver of the other vehicle, told police he was stopped for a red light when he heard screeching tires, saw a flash of light and “then the impact occurred.”

Martinez apparently rear-ended the second vehicle.

Martinez’s SUV had heavy front-end damage. There was moderate damage to the rear of the other vehicle, a police report says.

GOP calls for resignation

Republican Party State Chairman Steve Pearce, the former U.S. representative and gubernatorial candidate, on Monday called for Martinez to resign.

“This is yet another embarrassment to New Mexico when elected officials are arrested on suspicion of DWI,” Pearce said in a statement. “As chairman of the Judiciary committee, Sen. Martinez’s blatant disrespect for the law and law enforcement is hypocritical. Clearly, he believes he is not held to the same standards and laws as all New Mexicans. He refused to cooperate with law enforcement at the scene and sent an innocent victim to the hospital. His actions and behaviors are out of line and he should resign his position immediately and apologize to his constituents for his dangerous and reckless conduct.”

The Democratic Party of New Mexico maintained Martinez is cooperating with police. Spokesperson Miranda van Dijk said:

“Senator Martinez has been an effective and passionate representative of Senate District 5 for many years. DWI continues to be a serious concern in our state, and Democrats are committed to reducing instances of impaired driving in New Mexico. We’re glad to see that Senator Martinez is cooperating with law enforcement as he addresses this situation, and we hope that everyone will respect his right to due process under the law as the situation evolves.”

New Mexico State Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, both Democrats, said in their own statement:

“This is a difficult situation. Our immediate concern is for the well-being of everyone involved in the accident. Senator Martinez is a valued member of our caucus and is entitled to the process afforded him under the law. DWI continues to be a very serious issue for our state. This is a developing matter and we have no further comment at this time.”

Last year, when Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque, then a Republican state House member from Albuquerque, was arrested for DWI, the Democratic Party called for her to be investigated for abuse of office because of her interactions with officers who arrested her.

Democrats accused Youngblood of attempting to use her elected position to influence arresting officers that night.

After being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in May, Youngblood told Albuquerque Police Department officers she has introduced bills to protect them at the Roundhouse and stood up for them in response to discrimination claims.

“I literally fight for you guys,” Youngblood told one officer, according to lapel footage released after her arrest. Youngblood lost her re-election bid last year.

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