NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The legal battle for continues for New Mexico’s former Tax and Revenue secretary Demesia Padilla. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office is now looking to the state Supreme Court to reverse a recent Court of Appeals decision and bring back the criminal conviction against Padilla.
“It’s important for our office to defend the jury’s verdict in the situation,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General James Grayson.
In 2021, a jury found Padilla guilty of stealing $25,000 from a client while acting as the Tax and Revenue secretary under former Governor Susana Martinez. However, Padilla’s convictions were recently overturned in March 2023.
In a split decision by New Mexico Court of Appeals, judges cited a conflict the state’s statute of limitations for the charges. Judges Katherine Wray and J. Miles Hanisee affirmed the decision, while Judge Megan Duffy dissented.
Padilla’s case has been through series of legal challenges over the last five years. Prior New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas first filed the case in 2018. In May 2019, a Santa Fe District Court Judge dismissed five charges against Padilla amid arguments over the validity of filing criminal charges tied to an ethics statue called the “Governmental Conduct Act.” Two more charges were dismissed in June 2019 over a conflict with the charges being filed in the wrong county.
The AG’s Office eventually refiled two felony charges against Padilla in August 2019. The case went to a trial in June 2021 and a jury found Padilla guilty of embezzlement (over $20,000) and computer access with intent to defraud or embezzle (over $20,000). She was sentenced to probation in September 2021.
Weeks after her sentencing, in October 2021, Padilla’s attorneys appealed the verdict. Padilla’s defense argued the six-year statute of limitations on the criminal charges had already run out by the time the AG’s Office refiled the case.
After weighing the appeal for nearly a year-and-a-half, on March 31, 2023, the New Mexico Court of Appeals handed down a decision, overturning Padilla’s conviction.
“The criminal conduct alleged for both second degree felony counts occurred between December 19, 2011 and January 22, 2013,” Appeals Court Judge Katherine Wray wrote in the decision. “As a result, the six-year limitation period expired on January 23, 2019.”
The Office of New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez is now fighting the Court of Appeals ruling. In a May 1, 2023 filing, the AG’s Office is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
“The argument here is that somehow dismissal and refiling violated the statute of limitations, but in fact, the statute of limitations, the goal is to put the defendant on notice of the need to defend against the charges,” Grayson said. “The previous administration did so.”
Padilla’s team has a chance to respond before the state’s highest court decides if it will take on the case. Grayson said they should know in about 30 days, so, possibly sometime in June.
“We had a jury of this defendant’s peers unanimously find her guilty of public corruption,” Grayson said. “That’s a very serious breach of public trust and something that needs to be upheld by the New Mexico Supreme Court.”
KRQE News 13 reached out to Demesia Padilla’s legal team for comment, but has not received a response.