New Mexico

DA Francesca Estevez pleads guilty to reckless driving, disorderly conduct

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) - Two years after witness video showed District Attorney Francesca Estevez weaving across a southwest New Mexico highway, now, Estevez has pleaded guilty. 

The DA representing Grant, Hidalgo and Luna counties, took a plea deal in the criminal case Monday afternoon, pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving and two counts of disorderly conduct. 

While admitting guilt, Estevez won't face any jail time. 

The Las Cruces judge presiding over the case, Judge Douglas Driggers sentenced Estevez Monday to a conditional discharge and one year of unsupervised probation. Estevez faced potentially more than a year in jail. 

The case may not be over for her though. A letter from the New Mexico Attorney General's Office shows the AG is now asking Estevez to resign, claiming she is "no longer fit to hold the office of District Attorney." 

VIEW: NMAG Resignation Request Letter to Estevez »

Estevez's plea and sentencing Monday marked two years to the day that her driving incident unfolded near Silver City. 

In 2016, a witness captured video of Estevez's state-owned, blue Dodge Charger weaving across Highway 180 outside of Silver City. 

Estevez eventually pulled over in a gas station parking lot in Silver City. Police body cameras captured the moment's officers met Estevez, who claimed she had a flat tire. 

"I have a flat," said Estevez during a body camera video recording. "And I didn't know I had a flat because I kept going over... and over!!" 

Some officers on scene were concerned that Estevez may have been showing signs of impairment. One officer claimed that he thought Estevez was "loaded," because she "almost fell down." 

Despite the concerns, officers never tested Estevez's sobriety and let her go after helping her change a tire. The Attorney General's Office charged Estevez in June 2017.

VIEW: Estevez Driving Incident Witness & Police Video » 

Estevez's jury trial was slated to begin Tuesday, June 12, however, both sides reached a plea deal. 

The misdemeanor charges Estevez accepted, reckless driving and disorderly conduct, are different than what prosecutors had initially charged her with.  

Estevez was originally facing three counts of violating "ethical principles of public service" for accusations that she harassed or intimidated law enforcement officers following the traffic stop. She also faced one count of "prohibited political activities" for using her work vehicle for personal errands. 

With the plea deal, Estevez faced up to 455 days in jail, but Judge Driggers didn't impose any of that. 

Under the terms of a conditional discharge, the charges will be dismissed against Estevez is she stays out of trouble while on supervised probation for the next year. 

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas expressed disagreement with the sentencing Monday, writing "the court should have imposed appropriate punishment." 

“I am angered and frustrated that unlike any other citizen, District Attorney Estevez was able to use the weight of her elected position to manipulate local law enforcement to receive special treatment as she attempted to avoid a full investigation and potential charge of DWI in 2016.  When you recklessly endanger the public, you should not be the person charged with enforcing the law. Based on her admissions of guilt and violations of public trust, I am immediately demanding her resignation,” said Attorney General Balderas.

Estevez pleaded guilty to the top count of reckless driving and two counts of disorderly conduct for being abusive and disruptive to officers on the scene. The Office of the Attorney General asked the court to impose the maximum sentence of 455 days incarceration. However, Judge Driggers instead granted the Defendant a conditional discharge and placed the Defendant on unsupervised probation.

--Statement From New Mexico Attorney General's Office

While the criminal case may be over for Estevez, the Attorney General may take her back to court soon. 

A letter obtained by KRQE News 13 shows the AG is asking Estevez to resign, claiming her guilty plea shows she is "no longer fit to hold the office of district attorney." 

According to the letter, Estevez's guilty plea raises NMSA § 36-1-9, the state law covering "removal from office" for district attorneys. 

Estevez's attorney, Jim Foy didn't respond to KRQE News 13's request for comment Monday evening. 

Estevez was re-elected in 2016, months after the driving incident went public and is currently slated to serve in office at least through 2020. 


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