- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Federal prosecutors have recommended that a former campaign manager for Gov. Susana Martinez be sentenced to prison time for stealing the governor’s email and lying about it.

Jamie Estrada faces up to a year and one day in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8 in Albuquerque.

In documents filed in federal court on Friday, the U.S. attorney’s office said sentencing Estrada to “the higher end of that range would best reflect the seriousness of his crimes, promote respect for the law, and be a fair and just punishment in this case.”

Estrada’s lawyers asked a federal judge earlier this month to place their client on probation rather than send him to prison.

Estrada 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.

Messages sent by Martinez, her aides and supporters never went to intended recipients on 2010 gubernatorial campaign email accounts and instead were directed to a computer account controlled by Estrada. Those emails included the governor’s online purchase of underwear and a Martinez staffer’s bank records.

Estrada briefly served as campaign manager in 2009 as Martinez was starting her bid for governor.

Federal prosecutors said Estrada was “dishonest, devious, spiteful and conniving” during the time he took control over the campaign email system in mid-2011 after Martinez became governor and leaked email to damage or embarrass Martinez.

Prosecutors said Estrada also plotted against Martinez allies, including Amy Orlando, who the governor appointed as her successor as Dona Ana County district attorney. Martinez had served as district attorney until becoming governor.

Estrada “had joined in the effort to try to defeat” Orlando in the 2012 election, according to prosecutors. Some of Orlando’s emails were intercepted by Estrada.

Orlando lost to Democrat Mark D’Antonio, who is the current district attorney in Las Cruces and is among those who have submitted letters in support of Estrada for the federal judge to consider in sentencing him.

D’Antonio has described Estrada as a friend and “a good and honest man who made a very serious error.”

Martinez plans to ask the federal court to sentence Estrada to prison.

The governor’s spokesman, Enrique Knell, said Monday, “The filing by federal prosecutors sheds shocking new light on the depravity of those involved in this crime and how multiple operatives conspired to break federal laws in an attempt to personally destroy innocent private citizens and corrupt the political process, beginning with the DA’s race in Dona Ana County and continuing with the governor’s race.”

In their court filing, prosecutors included copies of text messages between Estrada and an unidentified “confidant” who also was working to defeat Orlando. They discussed sending Orlando a “flip off photo on election night” and “mused about sending a similar photo to the governor.”

Prosecutors said Estrada attended the 2012 GOP National Convention at which Martinez was a speaker. Estrada received a text “suggesting that he should chant ‘Susana es una Tejana’ before her speech,” to which defendant Estrada replied, “Bwhahahahahaha! I’d love to say it to her pendeja face!’”

In New Mexico, the term “Tejana’ can be used disparagingly to describe someone from Texas. Martinez grew up in El Paso. The Spanish word “pendeja” can be a vulgar term or used in a degrading way to describe a woman as being very stupid.

Prosecutors said, “Not even in the dog-eat-dog world of politics do the ends always justify the means - and those who do choose to resort to illegal means must be prepared to suffer the consequences.”


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