- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The attorney representing embattled New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran declared her client’s innocence Wednesday and defended her decision to ask a judge for more time to mount a defense.

Attorney Erlinda Johnson has filed a request seeking to push back a deadline next month for filing motions in the case and a preliminary hearing that’s scheduled for late October.

Johnson told The Associated Press that she filed the motion following a cursory review of information provided by the attorney general’s office, which included more than 3,000 pages of documents, an analysis of banking information and numerous audio files with hours of interviews.

“Clearly, there has been a distortion of the facts,” Johnson said in a telephone interview. “Ms. Duran is innocent and the defense needs time to demonstrate how the evidence on which the attorney general’s office relies does not support criminal conduct.”

Duran, who is serving her second term as the state’s top elections official, has pleaded not guilty to 64 counts that range from fraud and embezzlement to money laundering and tampering with state records. She’s accused of funneling campaign donations to personal bank accounts and withdrawing large sums of money while at casinos around the state.

Johnson said there’s no evidence that Duran took any campaign donations and gambled them at casinos.

Pointing to recent inquiries into the campaign finances of other elected officials, Johnson said it’s easy for a public official to make mistakes on reporting and that in the case of her client there was no criminal intent.

“They should be ashamed of wasting taxpayers’ money and making this a criminal case,” she said of prosecutors.

Prosecutors have been tightlipped about the case outside the courtroom, but they have said in filings that Duran - whose office is responsible for enforcing the state’s elections and campaign finance laws - filed false campaign reports as a candidate and as secretary of state allowed those false reports to stand.

The case has raised questions about the integrity of New Mexico’s campaign finance system, and open government advocates have called for reforms as well as an audit of all campaign finance reports and the creation of a state ethics commission.

Prosecutors are challenging the motion to delay the proceedings. They argued in a filing Wednesday there’s no reason for a delay since it’s premature for Duran to raise statutory and constitutional challenges before a preliminary hearing.

It’s unclear when the judge will make a decision.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30. That’s when the judge would decide if there’s enough probable cause for Duran to be tried.

Duran also is facing pressure to resign. A bipartisan House committee appointed to investigate the charges against her is scheduled to meet for the first time next week to discuss the hiring of special counsel as part of possible impeachment proceedings.

Duran, a Republican, is one of the state’s highest ranking officials. After making no public appearances or statements for more than two weeks, she returned to work this week as her office prepares for the upcoming election cycle.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide