Agents with the state Attorney General’s Office raided the office of a southwestern New Mexico district attorney who was stopped for suspected drunken driving last summer but never charged.
“I can confirm that the Office of the Attorney General has executed warrants at the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Grant County. This is an ongoing investigation based on a public referral,” AG spokesman James Hallinan told the Journal.
Agents served search warrants Tuesday and seized a state car driven by District Attorney Francesca Martinez-Estevez.
One warrant executed by the Attorney General’s Office and obtained by the Journal includes an affidavit that shows agents were seeking any and all records related to a blue Dodge Charger that is a 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office vehicle, and the document mentions video and other evidence gathered just before and during the June traffic stop.
“At this time probable cause exists to believe (Martinez-Estevez) recklessly drove a state vehicle, failed to provide immediate notice of an accident, and acted in violation of the New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act,” according to the affidavit.
It cited video evidence of the Charger – later determined to being driven by Martinez-Estevez – swerving along the highway at 70 mph to 100 mph, crossing the yellow line at least 10 times, driving on the shoulder of the road and appearing close to crashing, according to an officer following her.
Her attorney, Jim Foy, said in a follow-up interview after the stop that his client was driving on undisclosed personal business in a state vehicle and that she has been “ordered to” use the state vehicle for such business. No information was provided on who or what entity might have issued such an order, according to the affidavit.
Martinez-Estevez also told investigators she was driving above the posted speed limit of 60 mph “in part as an effort to establish whether her tire was flat,” according to the affidavit.
Foy called the raid and investigation by Balderas “absolutely unprecedented” and said he had never heard of the attorney general’s office prosecuting allegations of speedy and reckless driving.
“Months ago, Ms. (Martinez-Estevez) was stopped by the police, and the matter was investigated by two police agencies,” Foy said. “And neither chose to charge (her with) any crimes.”
He called the attorney general’s actions “purely political grandstanding.”
Foy previously said Martinez-Estevez’s car problems were caused by a flat tire and she does not drink alcohol.
Two Silver City Police Department officers who didn’t conduct field sobriety tests on Martinez-Estevez during the traffic stop were later disciplined.
Silver City and State Police officers at the time were walking on eggshells trying to figure out what to do about Martinez-Estevez, her car with a flat tire and a civilian reporting Martinez-Estevez as a drunken driver on U.S. 180 driving recklessly toward Silver City based on videos that were released.
After more than an hour with officers in a parking lot near local government buildings – and a brief visit to the scene by Silver City Police Chief Ed Reynolds – officers arranged for Martinez-Estevez to get her flat tire fixed and sent her on her way, even though one officer said she appeared “loaded.”
Silver City police officers at the scene kept turning their lapel cameras on and off during their interactions with Martinez-Estevez, who already had won her Democratic Party primary election contest and was unopposed for another term in November’s general election as top prosecutor for Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.