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Ex-legislator’s corruption case gets underway in District Court

Former state Sen. Phil Griego made his first appearance before his new – and 10th – judge Monday afternoon. All the other judges who have been assigned to his public corruption case have recused themselves or been dismissed by Griego’s defense, leaving state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels to appoint a judge for the case.

Former state Sen. Phil Griego listens to proceedings before Judge Brett Loveless in state District Court in Albuquerque on Monday afternoon. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Former state Sen. Phil Griego listens to proceedings before Judge Brett Loveless in state District Court in Albuquerque on Monday afternoon. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Griego is accused of using his position as a legislator to make money in a real estate deal involving a historic state-owned building. He didn’t disclose any interest in the sale when lawmakers were voting on it during the 2014 legislative session, but later received a $50,000 broker’s fee.

Second District Judge Brett Loveless of Albuquerque, who took the case in April, held Griego’s scheduling conference Monday afternoon in Albuquerque.

The judge scheduled what will be a lengthy preliminary hearing in the case for early July and addressed the stickiest issue to date in the case: a fight over whether communication between legislators and their aides is confidential.

Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office, which charged Griego on Feb. 29, says it wants to see the communications between Griego and aides who helped draft legislation related to the land deal.

But the Legislative Council Service, which drafts bills and provides legal service to legislators, is fighting the AG’s motion, saying that information is “absolutely privileged” and must be kept confidential for legislators to trust the LCS.

Prosecutors and Griego’s defense attorney, Tom Clark, hope to have that issue resolved before the July 5 preliminary hearing, which they expect to take about a week and expect to hold in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque courtrooms.

Griego, a Democrat from San Miguel County, has pleaded not guilty to all 10 criminal counts he is facing, including fraud, bribery, perjury and tampering with public records. If convicted of all 10 counts, Griego could face up to 28 years in prison and more than $40,000 in fines.

After 18-plus years in the Senate, the San Jose Democrat resigned from the chamber in March 2015 instead of facing possible disciplinary action.

Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Boyd and staff writer Deborah Baker contributed to this report.

 

 

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