- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A former campaign manager for Gov. Susana Martinez is asking a federal court to sentence him to probation rather than prison for stealing the governor’s email and lying about it.

Jamie Estrada faces up to a year and one day in federal prison. He pleaded guilty in June to charges of unlawful interception of electronic communication and lying to FBI agents. He provided the hijacked email to the governor’s political opponents.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8 in Albuquerque.

In a court documents filed Wednesday, Estrada’s lawyers said probation is a sufficient sentence. If Estrada goes to prison he could no longer care for his elderly father and a brother with a life-threatening liver disease.

“Whether Mr. Estrada is on probation or in prison could determine whether his brother survives,” the lawyers wrote. “If Mr. Estrada is not available to care for his brother after a transplant, his brother will no longer be eligible for a transplant, as Mr. Estrada is the only person available to provide the kind of intensive care and support that is necessary.”

The U.S. attorney’s office has not yet submitted its sentencing recommendation to the court.

“Gov. Martinez was one of dozens of victims and, as such, will be asking the judge to sentence the defendant to prison time,” Enrique Knell, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement.

In Estrada’s request for sentencing leniency, lawyers Zachary Ives and Molly Schmidt-Nowara pointed to their client’s “extraordinarily good character and distinguished history of public service.” Estrada worked in the U.S. Commerce Department from 2005 to 2009.

Estrada, they said, already has endured “harsh consequences” because of his actions. He’s been unable to find a job, and his felony convictions have “rendered his longtime goal of a career in politics or public service impossible,” the lawyers said.

Estrada’s lawyers submitted dozens of testimonial letters from Estrada’s family, friends and colleagues.

Dona Ana County District Attorney Mark D’Antonio described Estrada as a friend and “a good and honest man who made a very serious error.”

D’Antonio, a former federal prosecutor, said he had known Estrada for about two years and “we communicate about once a week.”

Estrada used password and username information, which he obtained as campaign manager in 2009, to change the email account for the governor’s campaign organization after Martinez took office as governor in 2011.

Messages sent by Martinez, her aides and supporters never went to the intended recipient and instead were directed to a computer account controlled by Estrada.

Estrada briefly served as campaign manager in 2009 as Martinez was starting her bid for governor. An FBI affidavit in the case says Estrada was fired, but he maintains that he left the campaign to run for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission.

Estrada intercepted the email and provided it to the governor’s opponents because he “felt used and betrayed” by Martinez and thought they would reveal possible wrongdoing by the Martinez administration.

Estrada’s lawyers have alleged corruption in the handling of a state fairgrounds casino deal. However, no charges have been brought and administration officials maintain that a new long-term lease for the Downs at Albuquerque was handled properly.

Knell said, “This is a case about a fired employee who wasn’t given a state job and decided to try to get even by illegally intercepting personal emails from numerous people, including personal bank statements and the governor’s personal underwear orders, all of which were made public in a shameful revenge scheme.”

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Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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