Updated: Friday, 14 Oct 2011, 1:36 PM MDT
Published : Wednesday, 28 Sep 2011, 5:42 PM MDT
SANTA FE (KRQE) - Embattled State Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. went to court and cut a deal late Wednesday afternoon.
Block agreed to plead guilty to six felonies, including racking up more than $8,000 on his state-issued gas card in less than 3 months and pocketing thousands in campaign cash. Block pleaded no contest to an embezzlement charge related to taking a car for a test drive and never returning it.
Block promised to resign from his $90,000 a year job at the PRC in the next 10 days and to never again run for public office. He also vowed to pay back thousands in restitution.
The judge also ordered Block to take part in a court-run drug program immediately. He said if Block is unsuccessful in drug court, he could face 4 1/2 years in prison.
"(Block) just decided that this is the best thing he can do for the state of New Mexico at this time," said Block's attorney Carolyn Nichols.
The plea deal comes about a month before a committee of lawmakers was to decide whether or not Block should be forced out. Impeachment proceedings would have cost taxpayers about $1 million.
As part of the plea agreement, Attorney General Gary King is dropping related campaign charges against Block's father, Jerome Block Sr.
King said the plea deal is a big win for New Mexico.
"It's a very positive day for New Mexico taxpayers," said King. "We believe that this plea agreement meets all the critical agreements that were important for the state."