Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Vigil Revisited: Could He Cop A Plea? Possibilities Weighed As Second Trial Nears, Plus: Geno's Money Search & Big Bill's Gun Ad
Will Robert Vigil cop a plea? Should he? Could he? So goes the frenzied speculation in legal and political circles with the second trial of the ex-state treasurer on a multitude of public corruption charges set to begin September 5; a trial that threatens to cast a shadow over the fall campaign and perhaps dampen enthusiasm for Democratic candidates.
Sources who say they are in the know report that there have been overtures between federal prosecutors and Vigil's defense team and that discussions have been specific.
"I am told that Vigil has weighed a plea bargain that would have him plead guilty to two of the charges, serve 18 months in prison on one and 18 months of probation on another. But he is determined to stay out of prison and has rejected the plea. He wants no prison time and is willing to take his chances at a second trial," reported a usually reliable source who claims to know, but we caution has not been directly privy to any such talks.
Vigil's first trial was a nail-biter with the jury ending up hung 11-1 for a conviction on one of the key charges. Federal prosecutors are not about to plead out the biggest corruption case in state history without a guarantee that Vigil serves time behind bars, especially since he was just one juror away from a prolonged stint at the Big House.
Vigil's case has already entered the political arena, with ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson running a TV ad claiming her Dem foe, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, failed to act on corruption in the Treasurer's office. But there are other political angles that are surfacing, with Vigil supporters pointing out that U.S. Attorney Iglesias was Madrid's' Republican opponent for attorney general in 1998 and that the timing of the second trial---in the middle of the campaign---plays against her.
"Is it political? It sure looks that way. Maybe Iglesias has his eye on the Heather seat when she someday moves over to run for Senator Domenici's seat. He would gain handsomely from a big victory over Vigil and at the same time would help Heather," speculated one Alligator.
But others maintain Iglesias had no control over the timing of the second trial, that it was set by the judge and agreed to by all parties. "Who was to know there was even going to be a second trial? We had a mistrial forcing the second round. The timing is purely coincidental and the charge that it isn't is simply an effort to poison the jury pool," argued a supporter of the government's case.
Still, cases can be delayed for a variety of reasons and legal beagles are saying watch for any last minute maneuvers that could push the trial out to November or later, avoiding a political tempest for Madrid as she tries to put Wilson on the defensive on the many weaknesses polling shows Republicans face this cycle.
Vigil, 52, has got to be worried that guilty verdicts at a second trial could send him away for many years. Insiders say he has been told as much by key advisers and friends, some of whom have urged him to cop a plea. But Vigil draws on a deep well of support from his large Las Vegas area family and apparently sees his best bet as fighting all the way. That's no surprise. He fought to tooth and nail in the public arena to rise to the top and, as the saying goes, you go with what you know.
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE NINETY GRAND?
Geno Zamora is back on the campaign trail or, we should say, the fundraising trail. He's sent a letter out asking supporters to help him retire a $90,000 campaign debt he says he accumulated in his unsuccessful bid for the Dem AG nomination.
Hey, maybe AG winner Gary King can hold a party to help out Geno. But Gary may be thinking of having one for Lem Martinez, whose presence in the race made it an uphill battle all the way for Zamora. Since Big Bill was in Geno's corner, maybe he can help out with the debt retirement. If anyone can afford to, he can.
MY BOTTOM LINES
Just before I was wrapping things up, I glanced at the TV and saw Big Bill's latest ad in which he notes "how we respect each other and our Second Amendment rights." (The right to bear arms) This value, the Guv avers, is one he will never forget. It's yet another play for the conservative rural vote as the push continues for a 60% win. What a luxury to be able to ignore those city liberals who, fortunately for the Guv, are probably more turned off by GOP nominee John Dendahl than the thought of even more bullets flying through the summer air...Oops. Did I say Monday that Big Bill got 53% of the Chaves county vote in 02' and John Sanchez received 45%. Please reverse those numbers. John carried the county.
AND ONE MORE THING....
Alright, one more that crossed the blog desk near the Midnight hour. The AP's Barry Massey checks in with the news that Dem. U.S Senator Jeff Bingaman has a staggering fundraising advantage over R opponent Allen McCulloch. Jeff had $1.7 million in cash at the end of June and Doctor Allen had about $2,400. Did we read that right, $2,400?! Bingaman spends that much on enchiladas for his staff each week. Will Allen raid his own hefty bank account to jump-start this thing? Am I groveling for action? Hey, I dig Heather and Patsy, but we need something for the off days.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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