SANTA FE (KRQE) – Despite pleas for leniency from former New Mexico secretary of state Dianna Duran, a Santa Fe judge decided Monday that the deal the Attorney General’s office struck with Duran wasn’t harsh enough and sentenced her to jail time.
Under the plea agreement, the state recommended a suspended sentence and probation for Duran in exchange for Duran pleading guilty to two felonies and four misdemeanors for stealing campaign donations and spending the money at casinos. Duran was also required to pay back up to $14,000 in restitution.
However, that agreement also included a provision that allowed Duran to back out of the agreement if Judge T. Glenn Ellington gave her jail time.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, a number of former colleagues and friends came to Duran’s defense.
“I would like to point out, she didn’t hurt anybody but herself,” said state Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington. “She didn’t take any taxpayer money. What she took was her own reputation and she’s paid a high price already.”
When it was Duran’s turn to address the judge, the tearful former secretary of state broke down several times.
“I apologize to the people of the state of New Mexico, my family and my friends and I’m truly sorry,” Duran said. “I would just ask this court for forgiveness and leniency.”
But in a lengthy explanation, Judge Ellington did not choose leniency, saying Duran’s crimes hurt more than just the victims she stole from by violating the very laws she was supposed to enforce.
“It affects public confidence in their elected officials individually and also in the offices that they hold,” Judge Ellington said.
Judge Ellington handed down the following sentence:
- 30 days in jail starting Friday, meaning Duran would spend Christmas behind bars
- Nearly 7.5 years of prison time, suspended unless she violates her probation conditions
- 5 years probation
- $14,000 in fines
- $13,866 in restitution
- 2,000 hours of community service
- 144 public appearances in front of schools and civic groups to tell her cautionary tale
- Apologies written and hand-delivered to her victims
- A public apology letter published in no fewer than six newspapers around New Mexico
- GPS monitoring for at least two years to ensure Duran doesn’t enter casinos
Ellington gave Duran until Wednesday to decide if she will back out of her plea agreement and take her chances at trial, but urged her not to do that.
“Ms. Duran you’ve asked this court for the opportunity to rehabilitate yourself,” Judge Ellington said. “That opportunity is standing before you. It starts Friday at 9 a.m. when you walk through the front door of the Santa Fe County Detention Center.”
Duran’s attorney told KRQE News 13 after the hearing she needed to consult with her client about what decision to make.
Before Judge Ellington handed down his sentence, a small group of protesters gathered outside the courthouse to protest Duran’s plea deal.
“She’s a sellout traitor… that’s why we’re dead last,” said Dinah Vargas. “[It’s] because people like that will always do what they do period.”
The Attorney General’s office did not comment on Judge Ellington’s decision to surpass its recommendation and impose jail time. Attorney General Hector Balderas did release the following statement:
The swift adjudication of this matter rectifies the public harm done by the criminal conduct of Ms. Duran and saved tremendous taxpayer impeachment resources. The Office of the Attorney General thoroughly investigated the case, which resulted in felony convictions and jail time. With this matter coming to a close, this Office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute public corruption in New Mexico
Governor Susana Martinez announced Monday that she would name Duran’s replacement by the end of the week. That appointee would serve through the end of 2016. The position will be on the general election ballot
“I hope we can move on from what has taken place in a positive way,” said Governor Martinez. “One thing that’s important is nobody’s above the law and everybody should be treated equally under the law.”