Thursday, May 11, 2006
Vigil Rolls The Dice; Will Go Defenseless; Legal Beagles Stunned By High-Stakes Gamble; We Have The Insider Analysis, Plus: Our Bottom Lines
I haven't seen anything like it in my 30 years of practicing law." So declared a veteran NM attorney with government and private experience as he reacted to the stunning news that state Treasurer Robert Vigil will not present a defense at his federal corruption trial and that the case could go to the jury as soon as Monday.
"It's remarkable and I think a big mistake," our legal Alligator analyzed. "They are giving the prosecution the last word. Why are they not recalling some of the government witnesses who were not that strong and again impeaching their credibility before the jury? I am absolutely floored that in the biggest corruption trial in state history that there will be no defense."
The no-defense news was delivered by flamboyant Vigil lawyer Sam Bregman, also a veteran Democratic Party politico. No one knows how the Vigil jury will react to the shocker, but if it's the same way the legal community is, Vigil ought to prepare for bad news.
"Sam is a not a top-tier NM trial attorney like a Charley Daniels or Randi McGinn, If it came from them you might say the federal case was just terrible. While the case appears to have holes, it does not appear to be so bad that putting on no defense is an option," our attorney analyzed.
I asked him if the other lawyers in his office shared his position. "When the news came down they all did a double-take. None of them, all trial lawyers, could offer a reasonable explanation on why Bregman did what he did." He reported.
ON SAM'S SIDE
Another trial attorney more sympathetic to Bregman's decision said Sam "must feel he has good rapport with the jury, that they have bought into his argument that the feds case is just not there and that he did all the impeaching he needed to do during cross-examination. He's betting that the witnesses, most of whom have cut deals to avoid jail, simply have no credibility." He offered.
Vigil faces 28 counts of extortion and other charges. If Bregman craps out on his roll of the dice the 51 year old Ribera, NM native could face many years in prison.
Bregman, in a standard procedure, has asked the judge in the case to dismiss the charges. If he does not throw all of them out, closing arguments start Monday morning and the jury will get the case that afternoon.
"Watch how long they are out. If it goes beyond two days, I think that will be good news for the defense, but I don't expect it to. I expect Vigil to be convicted, especially in light of this defense decision," offered our longtime legal mouthpiece.
But if Bregman pulls off the miracle, he will join the ranks of top-tier trial lawyers here. "If he gets Robert Vigil off, maybe he will get to defend Eric Serna," joked our attorney Gator.
State insurance boss Serna is under investigation by the attorney general. We are sure he is not laughing at the joke
Maybe it's appropriate that the Vigil trial climaxed with a gamble. If the United States government loses it will set back NM government corruption prosecutions for years. If Bregman fails, Robert Vigil loses his freedom and Bregman his credibility. The stakes don't get any higher.
A DONE DEAL?
Some national reaction to Big Bill's Monday money report that he has raised nearly $7 million for his re-elect this year, and it is predictable. Congressional Quarterly's watchers have caught up with the conventional wisdom here and are now calling the race a lead-pipe cinch for the Guv.
In a way, this is good news for GOP nominee-to-be J.R. Damron. Expectations are no so low, he won't have to do much to get a sympathetic ear from the public and press. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.
THE BOTTOM LINES
Not to be outdone by Jim Baca and his "Jerry the Cat" and two beagles, Baca's foe for the Dem nod for the land commission seat, Ray Powell, announces "Avians for Powell." "We were visited this Spring by a yellow grosbeak from Central America. It gave us the nod. He also ate a lot of bird seed at our feeders." Reports veterinarian Ray. I hope Jerry the Cat doesn't mount an attack....There was a bunch of birdseed and other matter flying through the NM air Tuesday night when a windstorm packing 60 mph gusts hit. The storm was cursed by most New Mexicans but welcomed by Dem state House candidate Moe Maestas. "I did not have any of my signs up yet and my opponents' signs were all blown away. I am now even with them," crowed Moe who faces a primary battle with Dan Serrano, Pat Baca Jr. and Dominic Aragon for a Westside legislative spot.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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