SANTA FE (KRQE) - New Mexico's high court dealt the would-be mayor of Sunland Park a tough blow Tuesday in the latest chapter of the sex-tape extortion scandal.
Recently re-elected Mayor Daniel Salinas wanted the justices to let him have contact with city workers again so he could be sworn in before the Thursday deadline.
The court said no way.
Salinas won last month's election by 84 votes despite having been arrested in an alleged criminal plot to force a competitor out of the race.
When he was released on bail, the judge set conditions that included staying out of city hall and not having contact with city employees.
His attorney wanted the state Supreme Court to rule that the judge in his case is improperly keeping him from assuming office by not allowing him to have contact with the city clerk who conducts the official swearing-in ceremony.
But the justices were unanimous in turning Salinas down, saying the restrictions were necessary because as mayor-elect or mayor he could intimidate witnesses in the case.
"A court has the duty and responsibility to protect the integrity and effectiveness of the orderly administration of justice," Justice Patricio Serna said.
Salinas still has until 5 p.m. Thursday to be sworn in before he has to vacate the position of mayor.
His attorney said they would ask the District Court judge assigned to Salinas' case to change the conditions of release. But there is a problem: a judge hasn't been assigned yet.
Salinas is charged with extortion after being accused of using a video of a woman giving a topless lap dance to his opponent, Gerardo Hernandez, to coerce Hernandez out of the race.
He's also facing bribery charges in a separate case.
Despite his arrest, Salinas still won the election although Doña Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando was not critical of voters.
"I would say that maybe they were uninformed," Orlando said. "I want them to know they may still like him as a person, but people still commit crimes.
"We may like them, they may be our friends, they may be our neighbor but committing crimes. People have to be held accountable for those, and he will be held accountable."
If Salinas can't be sworn in the Sunland Park City Council would have to appoint an interim mayor.
Nine other Sunland Park city workers have been charged in connection to the two cases against Salinas.
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