ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 2009 criminal case alleging fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy in a program set up to buy and renovate homes for low-income buyers took a new turn Thursday when the prosecution offered misdemeanor pleas to the three defendants, who have yet to respond to the offer.
“This case is almost old enough to be in school, your honor,” Assistant Attorney General Chris Lackmann told 2nd Judicial District Judge Ross Sanchez, “and the state would like it to be tried and over with.”
The defendants, he noted, have been on conditions of release for the past four years, meaning they are being monitored by state authorities.
Indeed, the case has been pending through various medical related issues for both the court and the defendants, along with withdrawal and re-entry of counsel, a change in the judge overseeing the case and a raft of motions.
The defense has taken the position that the accusations would have been more appropriate for a civil lawsuit than felony charges and that the Attorney General’s Office shouldn’t be prosecuting them anyway. Sanchez denied five motions seeking dismissal of the charges in July 2012.
Sam Bregman, attorney for defendant Dennis Kennedy, asked for another postponement in the previously scheduled trial date because of his client’s current illness, which he said is serious enough to interfere with his daily activities and prompt his physician to write a letter to the court.
Lackmann said he was sympathetic to health issues, but an option would be to sever Kennedy, an accountant, from the others and give him a separate trial from the two other defendants, Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos, the former director of the Region III Housing Authority, and Robert Strumor, bond counsel for the authority.
The charges are related to alleged mismanagement of funds from bonds issued in 2003 and 2004 by the housing authority.
“I’ve been avoiding the ‘s’ word,” Sanchez joked about the proposed severing of Kennedy from the case.
Paul Kennedy, attorney for Gallegos, and Billy Blackburn, attorney for Strumor, objected to having their clients tried without Dennis Kennedy being present. Paul Kennedy said it was “crucial” to the defense that Dennis Kennedy be there.
The court set Oct. 21 – the day the case was to have begun trial – for a status update.
Another case involving Gallegos, Kennedy and attorney David N. Hernandez is pending. It had been set for a status conference, but the assigned judge recused herself.