By Associated Press - Thursday, December 1, 2016

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Dona Ana County Treasurer David Gutierrez was removed from office after a jury convicted him of an ethics violation for allegedly offering $2,000 to a female office employee to have sex with him.

The District Court jury verdict announced Wednesday evening after two hours of deliberations found Gutierrez guilty of public corruption and gross immorality by a public official.

District Attorney Mark D’Antonio applauded the jury’s decision, saying that Gutierrez has been held accountable for abusing his office. “Our willingness to prosecute and tonight’s verdict sends a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”

The judge ordered that Gutierrez be removed from office immediately.

Defense attorney Jose Coronado expressed disappointment with the verdict and said an appeal is possible, the Las Cruces Sun-News ( ) reported.

Gutierrez, a 61-year-old Democrat, testified that what he said to the employee while they were driving in a county vehicle to the post office on Aug. 18, 2014 was a compliment, not a sexual proposition. “I was trying to lift her spirits,” he told the jury.

“We were talking, and at one point in the conversation, I told her that she was an attractive woman . and that anybody would give her $1,000 for a couple of hours in the privacy of a hotel room,” he said.

The employee, teller Luz Olivia Nunez, testified Tuesday that Gutierrez offered her “a couple thousand dollars for a couple of hours in a hotel room to spend with him.”

In the prosecution’s closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Daniel Sewell assailed Gutierrez’s assertion that the statement he made to Nunez was intended to be a compliment, called that claim “absurd” and “an insult to a woman.”

The judge in the case on Nov. 7 granted defense motions and dismissed criminal charges against Gutierrez, ruling that Gutierrez’s alleged actions don’t constitute a criminal offense.

Because Gutierrez was an elected official, the county had no authority to discipline Gutierrez. However, the Board of county Commissioners in 2014 censured Gutierrez.

In January 2016, Nunez reached a $68,000 settlement with the county over Gutierrez’s alleged actions and commissioners then asked for Gutierrez’s resignation. He refused.

Gutierrez was entering the last month of his final term in office when the trial began Tuesday. Term limits barred him from running for re-election this year.

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