Former New Mexico secretary of state accepts jail sentence

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2015 2:40 PM
Former New Mexico secretary of state accepts jail sentence

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran accepted a 30-day jail sentence on Wednesday after pleading guilty earlier to charges involving the siphoning of money from her election account to fuel a gambling addiction.

Duran's attorney Erlinda Johnson notified a state district court in Santa Fe of her client's decision, and Duran is set to start serving the sentence on Friday.

The case has led to calls for a major overhaul of the state's campaign finance and ethics laws.

Under a plea agreement, Duran had the opportunity to withdraw her pleas but did not.

She must pay a $14,000 fine, make restitution of nearly $14,000 to campaign donors, serve five years of probation and perform 2,000 hours of community service at charities.

The sentence issued Monday by District Judge T. Glenn Ellington also involves in-person apologies to campaign donors and appearances before school children across the state.

Johnson said she still may request changes to elements of the sentence "that are tantamount to public shaming." Major provisions such as jail time and financial penalties will not be challenged, she said.

Ellington said he designed the sentence to provide personal rehabilitation and help restore public faith in officials holding public office.

Duran's public pension of nearly $60,000 a year will remain intact.

Duran, a 60-year-old former state senator from Tularosa, had sought leniency in court filings, citing undisclosed personal hardships and a growing gambling disorder. A mental health assessment was submitted to the court and kept under seal.

A Republican city councilor from Albuquerque was sworn in as secretary of state on Tuesday to oversee an agency upended by a campaign finance scandal.

Brad Winter, a councilor since 1999 and a longtime public school administrator, said he would guide the agency through the November general election, when a new secretary of state will be chosen and take office in January 2017.

Joe Kabourek, executive director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said Winter may lack the political independence needed to restore confidence in the agency.

He noted that Winter employed a political strategist, McCleskey Media Strategies, in his most recent campaign and that the firm also has worked for Duran.

"There's a lot of cleaning up that has to be done," Kabourek said. "I think there is a fair question about whether this guy can get it done."