SANTA FE (KRQE) – It was busy morning for embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran. First she resigned, and then she admitted in court to stealing campaign funds to feed a gambling habit and trying to cover it all up. But she may not have to do any time behind bars.
Duran faced 65 charges, but only had to plead guilty to six of them and if she doesn’t get into any more trouble she could face just five years of supervised probation.
Duran went up in front of the judge and pleaded guilty to felonies for embezzlement and four misdemeanors for stealing thousands of dollars from her campaign funds and blowing it at casinos.
Under the plea deal, the Attorney General’s Office recommended five years of supervised probation as a sentence, provided Duran is ordered by the court to pay back up to $14,000 of misspent funds and that she is banned from having access to or control of public funds, among other conditions.
State District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington also said his reading of the agreement lets Duran back out of the plea deal if the judge orders prison time instead of probation. Prosecutors did not agree with Ellington’s reading of that portion of the agreement, but the dispute wasn’t enough to keep the state from signing off on the deal.
The six crimes to which Duran pleaded guilty carry just shy of eight and a half years behind bars, should the judge decide to depart from the state’s recommended sentence and instead impose the maximum penalty.
Duran also gets to keep her public pension as part of the deal, something she defended after the hearing. Duran claims she made this decision in the best interest of her family and for the people of New Mexico. She also insists these mistakes had nothing to do with her job as secretary of state or taxpayer money.
“It’s important to remember those were personal finances and there was no public money involved,” said Duran.
It is an odd argument since her job as secretary of state was to monitor how candidates such as herself spend their campaign money,
Per the plea agreement Duran will have to pay back some of the money she stole and get counseling for her gambling problem. She also won’t be allowed in casinos for five years.
A judge will decide if Duran should get probation or prison time in December.
Attorney General Hector Balderas said he does not believe his office is letting Duran off easy.
“No, in fact the Attorney General’s Office is the only office [that has] investigated, charged and brought forth this case to a resolution and insured that New Mexico deserves a higher standard for a secretary of state,” said Balderas.
Duran barely won her re-election last year, edging out Bernalillo County Clerk and Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver by a mere three points
The Republican Party of New Mexico issued the following statement about Duran’s decision to resign Friday:
“We respect Dianna Duran’s decision to step down amid these recent accusations and help restore credibility to the Secretary of State’s Office. Voters rightfully demand that our elected officials be accountable to the law, and our party will continue to advocate for accountability in government.”
The state Democratic Party released the following statement Friday:
“In light of Secretary Duran’s apparent resignation, I am hopeful that we can move forward with a fair election in 2016, and that trust can be restored in the Secretary of State’s office,” said Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Deb Haaland. “We will have a strong Democratic candidate that will take a hard look at the drop in voter participation in New Mexico as well as the other various issues facing the Secretary of State’s office.”
The governor’s office issued a brief statement:
“In wake of Ms. Duran’s resignation, the governor hopes we can come together and move forward as a state,” said Governor Martinez.
A few months ago as the scandal was brewing, the governor said, “Certainly if the allegations are true, Secretary Duran should resign. No one is above the law, no one, no matter what position you hold.”
Governor Martinez will have to appoint Duran’s replacement.
Her office says she hopes to do that in the coming weeks. Until then Deputy Secretary of State Mary Quintana will serve as acting secretary of state.
Read the plea agreement below: