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Sunday, March 4, 2007
Iglesias' Career Punctuated by Drama
By Mike Gallagher
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Investigative Reporter
Last Wednesday evening, while the political bombshells he tossed were still exploding around him, former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was feted at a $16-a-head, going-away dinner and roast at El Pinto restaurant.
The heads of federal and local law enforcement agencies were there to present the ousted Republican prosecutor with the inexpensive plaques U.S. Attorneys get when they go out the door.
Presiding U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez, a Clinton appointee, was there to say a few kind words, only hinting at the political ruckus Iglesias had started.
According to attendees, Vázquez said she hoped it wasn't all the liberal ideas she had put in Iglesias' head that poisoned the well.
It was a "nice evening" according to one attendee, and it might be Iglesias' last for a while, as he heads deeper into a political storm in Washington, D.C.
Iglesias, a Bush administration political appointee, has said he believes he lost his job because it took too long to bring indictments in a long-running public corruption investigation.
He is expected to testify Tuesday before House and Senate committees, where he says he will "name names."
Iglesias has all but accused New Mexico's Republican senior senator, Pete Domenici, and GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson of pressuring him to bring the indictments prior to last November's election.
In some interviews, he has declined to say anything that would identify Domenici or Wilson; in others, it is obvious he is referring to them.
Iglesias was asked to resign on Dec. 7, along with six other U.S. attorneys. Four of them have been subpoenaed by Democrats to testify Tuesday.
Iglesias was allowed to stay on the job until Wednesday and didn't raise allegations of being pressured until a Justice Department official said recently that performance issues were involved in his resignation request.
Iglesias has been considerably more forthcoming about his accusations in national media interviews than locally, making his most explosive remarks to McClatchy Newspapers and National Public Radio.
In remarks to KOAT-TV on Thursday, he sounded ready to get on the biggest stage possible.
"The best forum is under oath in front of cameras, in front of a national audience, in front of Democrat and Republican congressmen," he said.
He told the Journal on Friday evening that "the House and Senate committees asked us (Iglesias and three other fired U.S. Attorneys) to stop talking to the media until after we testify."
Wilson's office isn't commenting. Domenici finally addressed the issue on Saturday, saying he called to inquire but didn't pressure Iglesias in any way.
Domenici wasn't up for re-election last year, but Wilson was locked in a tight race with Democrat state Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
Wilson had made Madrid's alleged inaction in the area of public corruption a campaign focus.
There had been numerous news reports dealing with the federal investigation into alleged kickbacks and padded contracts in several public construction projects, including the Metropolitan Court Complex in Albuquerque.
Election observers felt Wilson, who ultimately won re-election by fewer than 1,000 votes, would have benefited from a round of indictments, especially if they involved several prominent Democrats.
The 18-month investigation has yielded no public indictments, but Iglesias said Wednesday that an announcement in the case should be made by the end of March.
Iglesias made sure his explosive claim that he was fired because he didn't respond to political pressure to bring indictments was made in the national media.
That story broke nationally while he was defending his staff from what he believed to be criticism from the U.S. Attorney General's Office to a room full of local reporters.
In one national media outlet, he said he felt "pressured." In another, he said he felt "violated."
Other times, he has been coy.
During his local press conference Wednesday, he thanked an official at the Department of Justice for giving him an extra 30 days on the job so he could find a new one. Then he criticized the same official for not giving him six months to find a job.
Appointed by President Bush in 2001, Iglesias was looked on with favor by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Ashcroft appointed Iglesias to numerous department committees including a border task force, an Indian crime task force and others.
At one point last week, Iglesias was asked for the high point of his tenure as U.S. Attorney. He responded by describing his travels to Colombia and Mexico. When it became clear the reporter was asking for the high points as a prosecutor, he quickly got back to public corruption prosecutions.
Iglesias told the Journal, "I don't have any media handlers or a script I'm working from."
The perfect resume
In many ways, Iglesias was everything some in the GOP were looking for: Hispanic, evangelical Christian and a Navy veteran with a lengthy resume and a White House fellowship under his belt.
Party leaders didn't think they could have written a better script for a future political leader.
In fact, scripts are part of Iglesias' background.
He was one of several military attorneys who formed the basis for Tom Cruise's role in the movie "A Few Good Men."
Iglesias, who was born in Panama, didn't have anything to do with the movie.
He and other attorneys from the Naval Judge Advocate's Office defended 10 U.S. Marines charged with assaulting another Marine at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
There are a number of differences between the movie and real life, the biggest being that, in the movie, the Marine dies. In real life, the victim survived the hazing.
In real life, and in the movie, the hazing was called a "code red" and the defense was "following orders."
Iglesias did provide technical advice to a 1990s theater production of the play and movie in Albuquerque and is still a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve in the Judge Advocate's office and will be on active duty in April for two weeks.
Based on his resume, good looks and pleasant manner, the Republican Party made Iglesias their candidate for state attorney general in 1998.
Iglesias was a political novice in the race against Madrid, a tough veteran Democratic politician who was used to campaigning in every small town and tea party across the state.
He lost by four percentage points, but some GOP insiders complained that Madrid simply outworked Iglesias during the campaign.
Until 2004, Iglesias was still one of several Republican officeholders being groomed for elective office.
But a controversy over a voter-registration drive, which saw hundreds of phony voters registered in New Mexico, left some in the party grumbling.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, a fellow Republican, said he was disappointed in how Iglesias handled an investigation his officers sent to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"There was clearly voter fraud," White said. "We had two 15-year-old brothers who were registered to vote in a fraudulent manner. There were cases like this indicted around the country, but not here."
In an attempt to recover, Iglesias appointed a voting fraud task force and was promptly ripped by one of the appointees in the national press.
Earlier this week, Iglesias said he angered several party leaders when he didn't seek indictments.
"There are people who don't understand what federal law requires," he said.
White said that, as a law enforcement official, he saw Iglesias' predecessor John Kelly more often while on the job.
Iglesias has been criticized for his travels and being out of the office. He has defended his time serving in the Naval Reserve, and he was a member of several Justice Department committees that took him out of the state.
A 'very stand-up guy'
Friends describe Iglesias as a devoted family man and a person of deep religious faith.
He made repeated references to his four daughters and his wife at his press conference last Wednesday.
Friends said that comes natural to Iglesias.
"David is a very loyal and ethical person," said Albuquerque attorney Jerry Walz. "He's demonstrated that over the years."
But Walz said an allegation that Iglesias felt was untrue (that he was fired for his job performance) "didn't give him an alternative but to stand up for himself."
Iglesias worked in Walz's law firm for a year before becoming U.S. Attorney. They have known each other since Iglesias was an assistant city attorney for the City of Albuquerque in the 1990s.
Walz said he was not privy to any of the details of the political controversy in which Iglesias is now embroiled but described him as a "very stand-up guy."
Walz said, "I'm not surprised he would stand up if he felt he was done a wrong."