SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Police video released Thursday shows former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson feigning ignorance briefly before acknowledging to a Santa Fe police officer that he rear-ended another car and didn't pull over.
A witness identified Richardson's yellow Jeep after the fender bender Wednesday morning in downtown Santa Fe. That helped police track him down at the state capitol building, where he was talking during televised interviews about diplomatic tensions with North Korea.
Richardson_a former congressman, U.S. secretary of energy and ambassador to the United Nations_initially asked if he had hit someone while driving after the officer asked him what had happened.
The officer told Richardson he had hit a vehicle at an intersection not far from the capitol.
"I was at a stoplight and I think I just barely popped it," Richardson said.
"It was enough to cause damage to her vehicle and cause damage to your vehicle. You see your bumper there," the officer said, pointing to Richardson's Jeep.
Richardson was fined $81 for following a car too closely and has a Feb. 1 date in municipal court to answer to a misdemeanor charge for leaving the scene.
Police classified the accident as a hit and run, but Richardson chalked it up to an "honest mistake" in a statement issued by his office Wednesday.
The other driver told police she was stopped when hit from behind, and that there were two impacts. The second was strong enough to push her car into an intersection, she told police. No one was hurt.
It's not the first time Richardson's driving has drawn scrutiny.
As a first-term governor more than a decade ago, Richardson he was observed traveling way beyond the speed limit in his state-police-driven SUV.
In 2003, a Washington Post reporter who spent time with Richardson the night of a Democratic presidential debate in Albuquerque wrote that the governor's two-vehicle caravan hit 110 mph on the way to a social event. Richardson was chastised for endangering the public in a letter from consumer advocate and Green Party politician Ralph Nader.
In 2005, Albuquerque police chased Richardson's vehicle before realizing it was the governor. In response, Richardson promised to slow down.
Richardson also received publicity in 2009 after an accident that involved a houseboat he was on at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico. Richardson and some others left soon after the boat hit the dock and another boat, but his chief of staff, Brian Condit, took responsibility and was cited.
In Wednesday's conversation with police, Richardson was polite and appeared to choose his words carefully.
"This was a tap, why didn't she pull over?" he asked the officer.
"She did pull over, on East Marcy," the officer said.
"Oh, she did," said Richardson, describing the intersection as a difficult place for him to pull over. "You had a bunch of cars on a little narrow street."
The officer told Richardson he may be able to resolve the charges in court without it affecting his driving record. As with any traffic citation, city officials say the citation won't be reported to the state Motor Vehicle Division as long as the driver doesn't commit any other infractions and a judge approves.