Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Convicted Ex-Treasurer Back Home
By Thomas J. Cole
Journal Staff Writer
Robert Vigil, who served two terms as state auditor and nearly three years as state treasurer before being convicted on a corruption charge, has wrapped up his prison sentence and now faces three years of probation.
Vigil, 56, a Democrat from Ribera in San Miguel County, was released Friday from the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the bureau.
He spent 26 months in prisons in Colorado and Texas before being moved to a halfway house in June. Vigil had been confined to his home for the last three months of his prison sentence, the Bureau of Prisons said.
"He's looking forward to moving on with his life with his family and friends," said Sam Bregman, a lawyer for Vigil. "There is a tremendous amount of joy in the Vigil family that this part of his life is over."
Under the terms of his probation, Vigil is prohibited from possessing a firearm, can't leave the state without permission and is required to make monthly reports to his probation officer in Santa Fe.
He must be employed full time or attend school but needs the approval of his probation officer to work in a position with fiduciary responsibilities.
Vigil also needs the OK of his probation officer to associate with other felons. In an unrelated case, his sister-in-law, Roberta Vigil, became one while he was imprisoned.
She was convicted in May of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud for diverting taxpayer money while working at the West Las Vegas School District.
Vigil, former state Treasurer Michael Montoya and others were indicted in 2005 on corruption charges. Among other things, Vigil and Montoya were accused of giving out government investment work in exchange for kickbacks.
Vigil's first trial in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque ended in a hung jury. At a second trial, he was convicted of one count of attempted extortion but acquitted by a jury of 23 other extortion and racketeering charges.
He was sentenced to 37 months in prison but served 32 months because of time off for good behavior.
Vigil was unsuccessful in appealing his conviction on the grounds the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's finding of guilt.
As a result of his conviction, Vigil also was fined more than $97,000 and stripped of his state license to practice as a certified public accountant. He has been making $2,700 monthly payments on the fine.
Vigil has collected a $55,000-a-year government pension since 2002 the same year he was elected treasurer. The retirement benefit was based on his previous years in government, including eight years as auditor.
Before resigning as treasurer in October 2005 because his indictment, Vigil had been raising money for a planned re-election bid.
While in prison, he donated more than $18,000 from his campaign fund to his brother, state Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, the husband of Roberta Vigil.
Vigil still had nearly $56,000 in his campaign fund as of October. He can use the money to make political contributions, return it to contributors or donate it to the state or charities.
"I don't think any decision has been made on that," Bregman said.
As a felon, Vigil is prohibited by state law from again holding public office unless granted a pardon or a certificate by the governor restoring full rights of citizenship.
In his first three years in office, 2003 through 2005, Gov. Bill Richardson granted 56 pardons. Since then: Zero.
Asked for an explanation a few months back, Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said, "No insight. The governor continues to consider pardon applications."
Although a pardon can lessen the stigma of a felony conviction, it doesn't remove the conviction from a person's record.
Felons convicted in state court need gubernatorial pardons to restore their rights to possess firearms. Felons convicted in federal court need presidential pardons to lawfully possess firearms.
Felons who have completed their sentences don't need gubernatorial pardons to vote or serve on juries in New Mexico.
The governor also can grant pardons providing for the immediate release of imprisoned felons.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Thom Cole can be reached in Santa Fe at 505-992-6280 or at firstname.lastname@example.org