- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A deadline to choose between jail time and a prolonged legal struggle against fraud charges awaited former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran on Wednesday.

A district court judge has given Duran until noon to accept a monthlong jail sentence ordered as part of a plea agreement involving felony embezzlement and money-laundering charges. Duran is accused of siphoning money from her election account to fuel a gambling addiction.

Her elaborate sentence also calls for making in-person apologies to campaign donors and appearances before school children to explain how her career was cut short by the scandal.

Duran could choose to withdraw her guilty pleas under an agreement with prosecutors. The scandal has led to calls for an overhaul of New Mexico’s campaign finance and ethics laws.

If Duran rejects the sentence, a district court would reinstate a 65-count criminal complaint alleging she mingled campaign and personal funds as she made cash withdrawals in 2012 and 2013 of more than $400,000 at various New Mexico casinos.



Under the proposed sentence, Duran must pay a $14,000 fine, make restitution of nearly $14,000 to campaign donors, serve five years of probation and perform 2,000 hours of community service at charities. She would wear a GPS tracking device for at least two years after leaving jail to ensure she stays away from casinos.

District Judge T. Glenn Ellington said the sentence was designed to go beyond simple punishment or mercy to provide personal rehabilitation and restore public faith in officials holding public office.

Meanwhile, a Republican city councilor from Albuquerque was sworn in Tuesday to succeed Duran as secretary of state.

Brad Winter, a councilor since 1999 and a longtime public school administrator, said he would guide the agency through the November general election, when a new secretary of state will be chosen and take office in January 2017.

Winter worked with Albuquerque Public Schools for more than 20 years and served a stint as interim superintendent in 2014.

The winner of the November election will serve an abbreviated two years to complete the term initially won by Duran.

Winter was re-elected in October as city councilor and plans to hold onto that job. He said he would not run for election as secretary of state next year and was leading the agency in an interim capacity only.

In appointing Winter, Gov. Susana Martinez praised his administrative skills and temperament.

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