SILVER CITY, N.M. (KRQE) – A southwest New Mexico district attorney now facing criminal charges says she’s being targeted by “political payback.”
Speaking for Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez, attorney Jim Foy released a statement Monday, refuting reckless driving and ethics charges recently filed against Estevez in relation to 2016 driving incident.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office charged Estevez last Thursday following a year-long investigation into the incident. Investigators allege that Estevez drove recklessly in a state owned vehicle and used that vehicle for personal matters. Investigators are also accusing Estevez of retaliating against several people following public reports of her driving incident.
Police encountered Estevez on June 11, 2016, after a witness called 911 to report her state-owned vehicle swerving all over U.S. Highway 180, outside of Silver City. Some officers were concerned about Estevez’s sobriety but they ultimately let her go without charging her, or giving her a sobriety test.
In a statement released Monday, Foy (Estevez’s attorney) called the charges “minor,” but also claimed, in part, that the charges against Estevez are “political payback” for “shedding public light on serious problem with the drug task force evidence locker that was supervised by members of the Silver City Police Department and the New Mexico State Police.”
Foy’s reference to the “drug task force evidence locker” stems from a rift between her office and local law enforcement officers associated with the “Region VII Drug Task Force,” covering a multi-county area in southwest New Mexico.
The Silver City Daily Press reports that an independent investigation of the task force in 2016 found local law enforcement officers had mishandled years of evidence and physical case files tied to current and past cases prosecuted by the Sixth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
While Foy has claimed that the charges against Estevez are because of scrutiny she’s leveled against “serious problems,” Foy hasn’t explained how that connects to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, which isn’t a part of the task force and hasn’t been.
Estevez made direct comments about the drug task force incident during her June 11 traffic stop.
“Oh I’m not foolish to think that there’s … a few people who got embarrassed about the whole thing, which they probably should have been, but what I’m afraid of is, we don’t want the U.S. Department of Justice coming and start looking down… that’s going to be a crazy…” said Estevez to Silver City Police officers during the traffic stop.
Foy claimed that he’s “mindful that the public is concerned about how the stop involving Ms. Estevez was handled by law enforcement,” but says that “it is undisputed that Ms. Estevez cooperated with all request of every law enforcement officer” during the traffic stop.
“According (to) a year-long investigation at the taxpayers’expense, the fact that Ms. Estevez did not demand field sobriety tests means that she intentionally bullied, intimidated or harassed the officers into failing in their duty to complete an adequate impairment investigation,” said Foy.
Read Estevez’s Attorney’s Full Statement below.
COUNSEL FOR FRANCESCA ESTEVEZ RESPONDS TO MISDEMEANOR CHARGES BROUGHT BY ATTORNEY GENERAL
SILVER CITY – Ms. Francesca Estevez, Sixth District Attorney, learned Thursday of misdemeanor charges brought by the Attorney General from an Albuquerque television station that called her counsel for comment. These minor charges stem from a traffic stop in Silver City in that took place on June 11, 2016.
Three police agencies, the Silver City Police Department, The Grant County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico State Police, have each declined to prosecute Ms. Estevez based on the June 11, 2016 stop. The new charges claim Ms. Estevez used her position to somehow intimidate law enforcement from prosecuting.
All of the charges from the Attorney General are misdemeanor charges, and none carry significant sentencing requirements.
Jim Foy, counsel for Ms. Estevez, provides the following statement:
“We are mindful that the public is concerned about how the stop involving Ms. Estevez was handled by law enforcement. Originally, the narrative presented in the media was that law enforcement failed in their duty to continue a DWI investigation based upon their suspicions of Ms. Estevez’ actions.
“These charges filed by the Attorney General about a year after the event now shifts the narrative away from law enforcement’s supposed mishandling of the investigation to unfounded allegations that Ms. Estevez manipulated, harassed and intimidated law enforcement to the point they were incapable of performing their duties that day or any day thereafter.
“lt is undisputed that Ms. Estevez cooperated with all requests of every law enforcement officer during the June 1.1,201,6 traffic stop. Three police agencies, the Silver City Police Department, The Grant County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico State Police, found no reason prosecute Ms. Estevez.
“This is a shameful political attack against Ms. Estevez when it is undisputed that she cooperated with all requests of every officer and did not ask for any special treatment. According a year-long investigation at the taxpayers’expense, the fact that Ms. Estevez did not demand field sobriety tests means that she intentionally bullied, intimidated or harassed the officers into failing in their duty to complete an adequate impairment investigation.
“Allegations are easily made and more difficult to prove. Ms. Estevez denies the charges. Our defense team asserts these charges are political grandstanding for the benefit of catering to other high ranking politicians and political payback for Ms. Estevez shedding public light on serious problems with the drug task force evidence locker that was supervised by members of the Silver City Police Department and the New Mexico State Police.
“It’s disappointing that these minor misdemeanor charges were filed after three agencies declined to prosecute. We look forward to preparing and presenting a vigorous and serious defense to all of these minor misdemeanor charges and traffic offenses.”