SANTA FE – Secretary of State Dianna Duran is asking for an extension to mount her defense against corruption charges, arguing in a court motion filed this week that more time is needed to further review whether Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office violated New Mexico grand jury laws and Duran’s right to privacy in its investigation.
Among other allegations raised in the motion filed in District Court in Santa Fe, Duran’s attorney claimed the Attorney General’s Office appears to have accessed information about Duran’s personal banking accounts without having a court order or subpoena.
“It is manifestly unjust to expect the defense to be prepared to challenge the allegations against Ms. Duran in less than 30 days,” Duran’s attorney, Erlinda Johnson, wrote in the court motion. “The prosecution has had more than one year to prepare and analyze the technical documents gathered.”
The Attorney General’s Office, in a response filed Wednesday, urged District Judge Glenn Ellington to reject the motion to grant Duran more time.
Specifically, the AG’s Office described Duran’s motion as misguided and premature, pointing out that a preliminary hearing has not been held to determine whether probable cause exists for Duran’s case to go to trial.
Duran is facing charges of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes for allegedly using campaign contributions to cover personal spending at casinos. She pleaded not guilty to the charges last week but has faced pressure to resign from office.
This week’s back-and-forth court filings could offer a preview of Duran’s defense strategy. Duran’s attorney claimed that any abuses of subpoena power or other legal violations committed by the Attorney General’s Office in gathering evidence against the secretary of state could result in evidence being tossed out or the entire case against Duran being dismissed.
However, the judge has rejected several previous motions to dismiss part or all of the case against Duran, including a complaint that at least one of the charges, dating to 2010, might violate the state’s statute of limitations.
In all, Duran was charged with 64 violations by the Attorney General’s office. Although the amounts withdrawn at eight casinos run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the counts against her revolve around 19 transactions totaling about $13,000.
In this week’s court filing, Duran’s attorney said the Attorney General’s Office has provided extensive evidence for the defense to review – more than 3,000 pages of documents and 20 audio files – but said some grand jury recordings have not been handed over.
In addition, the motion claims the confidential tip that sparked the AG’s Office investigation into possible wrongdoing by Duran came from an employee at a bank used by Duran. That statement was made in a presentation to a Santa Fe County grand jury in October 2014, according to the court filing.
The next court hearing in the Duran case is set for Oct. 23. The preliminary hearing is currently set to begin Oct. 30. Under New Mexico court system rules, preliminary hearings are generally required to be held within 60 days of a defendant’s first court appearance.