- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office announced Monday that it’s taking over an investigation into the alleged destruction of emails and other electronic records within the Dona Ana County district attorney’s office.

Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King said it appears the disappearance of the information was not a clerical error, but the planned destruction of state records.

King made the statement before swiftly leaving the news conference for another event. He answered no questions.

His general counsel, David Pederson, said the investigation has only begun, and it will take time to determine whether there were any criminal violations, such as tampering with state records. Because the investigation involves current and past employees of the district attorney’s office, Pederson said the attorney general was asked by 3rd Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio to step in.

The flap over the emails stemmed from a request by the state Democratic Party for public records related to then-District Attorney Susana Martinez’s first campaign for governor. D’Antonio’s office said the records request could not be fulfilled because emails were missing and apparently destroyed.

Pederson said the email-retention policy in the district attorney’s office is not the issue. “This goes way beyond simply pressing the delete button on certain emails or electronic files,” he said.

With weeks to go before the general election, Pederson denied accusations that the investigation by the attorney general’s office was politically motivated. However, King’s campaign in a fundraising email issued last week targeted Martinez and her former chief deputy, Amy Orlando, over the email flap.

King, a Democrat, is running against Martinez. Orlando replaced Martinez as district attorney when she was elected governor. Orlando lost to Democrat Mark D’Antonio during the 2012 election.

D’Antonio is among those who have submitted letters in support of Jamie Estrada, an ex-Martinez campaign manager who is set to be sentenced in a separate case for hijacking the governor’s email in 2010 and providing it to political opponents.

As for the investigation into the missing emails at the district attorney’s office, Orlando called it a “breathtaking abuse of power” by King for political purposes. She said the allegations that electronic communications were intentionally erased or destroyed were “completely and utterly false.”

Orlando said she has never been contacted by D’Antonio’s office regarding any issues and first learned of the allegations when D’Antonio’s office released a report last week that detailed an internal investigation into the emails.

Pederson said the bulk of the missing material dates to 2011 and 2012. He also said investigators are not focused on any one person, and no suspects have been named.

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