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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Awaiting the Vigil Verdict; The Lawyers Pace While The Insiders Speculate, Plus: Conroy Chino's Challenge, And: Key House Race Too Close To Call 

Lawyers waiting for a verdict is like politicans waiting for Election Night results. There's a feeling of helplessness. They just hope they have done all they can. In the case of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil in which six men and six women have been weighing his fate this week, attorneys for both sides probably could use a dose of Pepto-Bismol as their stomachs churn with tension induced by hours of waiting. While they wait, New Mexico's legal and political community continues to assess the largest corruption case in state history. More analysis has come in to your blog on defense attorney Sam Bregman's roll-the-dice decision not to put on a defense for Vigil because he believed the federal government did not prove its case.

ABQ trial lawyer Marty Esquivel gives us some fat to chew on as we await the outcome of the high-stakes trial. He comments on the no-defense decision and has info on the closing arguments that has not been reported.

"Lawyers can sometimes read whether jurors are bored or disinterested. And, remember, Sam made his no-defense decision with Jason Bowles, a former federal prosecutor. Unless you’re a seasoned lawyer who has spent every day in that court room, you really can’t say it was a mistake..."

"Bregman's closing argument twice referenced Sen. Domenici getting campaign money from companies who do business with the Senate Energy Committee, and Gov. Richardson getting money from people who do business with the state which was unreported in both newspapers. He said, “You may not like it, but it’s not against the law.” Perhaps he could have put on evidence of several NM politicians (D's and R's) receiving campaign contributions through intermediaries and then getting state or federal business, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be anything new to the jurors. It’s politics.

"One of the other keys here is the make up of the jury which has gone unreported. It’s a very favorable jury for Vigil which appears to be made up of blue-collar, Democrats with a high percentage of minorities. As we learned in OJ, there is a science to picking juries, and this jury is very positive for the defense. That is a big factor in this case." So weighs in attorney Esquivel with a pro-defense stance.

We let Esquivel take the blog stand to balance commentary from another experienced lawyer who last week damned Bregman's no-defense call. It won't be long to see which of our legal heavyweights is right, unless we get a hung jury and have to go back to square one.

CHINO'S CHALLENGE

As a well-known TV news investigative reporter Conroy Chino watchdogged those in charge of your tax dollars. But for the past three years he has been on the other side of the microphone as secretary of the NM Department of Labor, an agency that has always been fraught with political intrigue as various governors deposited political supporters there. It's no different for Chino who, as we see in this Santa Fe Reporter article, is now under fire from a group of Hispanic employees who claim they are not getting a fair shake from their Native American boss.

If Big Bill is re-elected the drumbeat will grow louder over Chino. Second terms are often a time for major cabinet changes, but so far Conroy has proven himself worthy of the "Survivor" series.

BATTLE OF THE GRANDPAS

One of the most frequent questions I'm getting this primary season is who will win the four way battle for the Dem State House nomination in District 16 on ABQ's West side. It's just one of two contested Dem legislative primaries in the state's largest county, so that's part of the reason, but the cast of characters has also fascinated the Alligators.

What I can report is that I have met with each of the candidates and all of them are on the ball when it comes to the issues. They all have signs up, all are mailing and all have raised enough money to campaign.

The two best know names in he group are Dominic Aragon, grandson of ex-state Rep. Bennie Aragon, and Pat Baca, Jr., son of former ABQ city councilor Pat Baca. But Dan Serrano is well known among the neighborhood groups and attorney Moe Maestas has a familiar name too.

Maestas and Baca are both Democratic liberals with Serrano and Aragon more middle of the road. But the race is not going to be decided on ideology, but on one-on-one contact. Only about 2100 votes are expected to be cast. This is truly a horse race to replace outgoing Rep. Harriet Ruiz. Maybe someone will win big June 6th, but we won't know it until it happens. Whoever wins will face an R opponent, but this is a big Dem district so the primary nod will be tantamount to election.

THE BOTTOM LINES


From the expenditure report of ABQ Public Regulation Commission candidate Andrew Leo Lopez: "Candy canes for senior citizens--$9.89." That should help the Geritol go down....And from the report of ABQ GOP State Rep. Justine Fox-Young, we note a donation of $150.00 from favorite Big Bill lobbyist Butch Maki whose "Victory Group" provides campaign consulting for Democratic legislative candidates. Are you branching out, Butch?

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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