Updated: Thursday, 17 Mar 2011, 5:02 PM MDT
Published : Thursday, 17 Mar 2011, 5:02 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A District Court judge ruling a conflict of interest exists has told Attorney General Gary King he cannot prosecute criminal charges against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Girón.
District Judge Albert "Pat" Murdoch issued his ruling Thursday afternoon in a case involving the alleged misuse of federal voter education funds by Vigil-Girón and others. Her attorneys had argued past associations among King, Vigil-Girón and their staffs disqualified King from pursuing the case.
In August 2000 a grand jury indicted Vigil-Giron, lobbyists Joseph and Elizabeth Kupfer and media company president Armando Gutierrez. Gutierrez had been hired to produce radio and TV spots for the secretary of state before the 2004 and 2006 elections.
Elizabeth Kupfer had worked in AG's office retiring before King took office in 2007. And Vigil-Girón has said attorneys in the AG's office had reviewed contracts for her office including the contract with Gutierrez.
What effect Murdoch's ruling will have on prosecution of the case was not immediately clear. No trial date had been set.
A spokesman for King said the office may take the case to the state Court of Appeals for a clarification on the ruling.
The allegations in the 50-count indictment accused the four of misusing $3 million in public money designated for statewide voter education.
At the time of the indictment King said five investigators and two attorneys from his office had built the case.
Vigil-Girón, a Democrat, served secretary of state from 1999 through 2006. The indictment cited events from August 2004 through December 2006 with additional counts of tampering with evidence and attempting to evade taxes in early 2007.
The charges included fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion and receiving and paying illegal kickbacks.
The money in question came from the federal Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002 and intended to avoid a repeat of the problems that plagued the 2000 presidential election. The secretary of state's office acted as the conduit for $6.2 million in federal funds sent to New Mexico under HAVA.