Ex-New Mexico Official Weighs Sentence Of Jail, 5-Year Mea Culpa

Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran wipes away tears during her sentencing at Judge T. Glenn Ellington's district courtroom in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. Duran was sentenced to 30 days in ja... Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran wipes away tears during her sentencing at Judge T. Glenn Ellington's district courtroom in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. Duran was sentenced to 30 days in jail for siphoning money from her election account to fuel a gambling addiction in a case that has led to calls for an overhaul of the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws (Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT MORE LESS
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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s disgraced former secretary of state has until Wednesday to accept a sentence that combines a month in jail with a five-year-long mea culpa involving in-person apologies to campaign donors and appearances before school children across the state.

Dianna Duran, once among the state’s highest-ranking elected officials, has pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement charges for siphoning money from her election account to fuel a gambling addiction, though she can still withdraw her pleas because the sentence delivered Monday included jail time.

The case has led to calls for an overhaul of New Mexico’s campaign finance and ethics laws.

District Judge T. Glenn Ellington told a packed courtroom in Santa Fe that Duran’s sentence was designed to go beyond simple punishment or mercy to provide personal rehabilitation and restore public faith in officials holding public office.

Duran must hand-deliver letters of apology to political donors, write another letter to the citizens of New Mexico, perform thousands of hours of community service and make at least four public appearances each month for the next three years to share her story with school children and civic groups.

“You will speak to students about government,” Ellington said. “You will speak to students about how your life’s pursuit of a career in government was cut short.

“I believe it’s a start in restoring the faith the public has in the office of the secretary of state and in the other candidates that seek public office.”

If Duran rejects the sentence, the court would reinstate a 65-count criminal complaint alleging Duran mingled campaign and personal funds as she made cash withdrawals in 2012 and 2013 of more than $400,000 at various New Mexico casinos.

Under the sentence, Duran would wear a GPS tracking device for at least two years after leaving jail to ensure she stays away from casinos.

Ellington said political officials in New Mexico who have been convicted of crimes have been allowed for too long to disappear into anonymity after serving prison time.

Duran’s transgressions were special, the judge said, because she violated campaign finance laws that she was entrusted to uphold.

Ellington initially ordered a 7.5 year prison sentence then suspended all but 30 days of it. He denied a motion that would have allowed Duran to spend time with her family over the holidays and told her to report to jail on Friday.

He also ordered Duran to 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.

Duran’s public pension of nearly $60,000 a year will remain intact, despite a 2012 law that allows judges to increase sentences against the value of salary and fringe benefits.

The wording of the law lacks teeth, according to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Choking back tears before the sentence was announced, Duran said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness and leniency.

“I’ll apologize to the people of New Mexico, to my family and my friends,” she said.

A former state senator from Tularosa, Duran had sought leniency in court filings, citing undisclosed personal hardships and a worsening gambling disorder.

Defense attorney Erlinda Johnson said her client’s gambling problem dates to 2010, the year she became the first Republican elected secretary of state since 1928. Johnson said the gambling spiraled out of control in 2012 and 2013.

Duran still has faithful supporters in state government who urged leniency at the sentencing. Republican State Sen. Bill Sharer said Duran cared about her constituents and that she didn’t take taxpayer money.

Judge Ellington said Duran violated the public’s right to know about the source and destination of campaign donations.

Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday announced her pick, Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter, to take over the secretary of state’s office. He will serve through November, when voters will elect a new secretary of state.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Notable Replies

  1. “I’ll apologize to the people of New Mexico, to my family and my friends,” she said.

    Not enough, said the judge. You need to apologize to those who despise and are disgusted by you. And to kids whose view of politics you poisoned.

    Sounds just to me.

  2. Her first mistake was stealing money from others. If she’d trafficked in Stinger Missile system sales to embargoed Syrian resistance fighters she could have had all the gambling money she needed, free of any legal complications. She really should have consulted Ollie North on all this.

  3. While I agree with the sentiment that the punishment should be less jail-time and more community service, the bleeding heart liberal in me feels a bit for her. She didn’t violate campaign finance laws out of some desire for more wealth, or greed, like some GOPers we could name. Instead she was feeding an addiction, and make no mistake, gambling addictions can be every bit as hard or harder to break than a drug addiction. At least with drugs, the desire might always be there, but you can remove the drugs. With gambling, it is everywhere and everything. The local football team. The weather. What color is Megan Kelly’s dress today. People with gambling addictions will do anything to feed that, down to betting quarters about what color shoes the next guy coming around the corner will have. So I feel for her, and I wish her a speedy recovery. And hopefully her punishment can help some kids in the meantime.

  4. I fucking love this judge.

  5. The saddest billboards I saw were ones about gambling addiction, especially in states with casinos, which are everywhere.

    That only makes it easier, but one can find widespread betting opportunities on the internet.

    Saw a woman buy multiple lottery tickets yesterday.

    Ain’t America great.

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