ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Prosecutors are calling in witnesses to try to prove there’s enough evidence to take a former sheriff-turned-magistrate court judge to trial.
Heath White is accused of stealing more than $20,000 from taxpayers in guns and equipment while serving as the Torrance County Sheriff.
The defense gave an emotional opening statement at the preliminary hearing in district court on Wednesday, claiming White did nothing wrong.”Just because the equipment was missing or was handed out to deputies went missing, does not mean that he embezzled. They have no witness to tie him to say, ‘hey you took this property,'” Defense Attorney Sam Bregman said.
White’s charges are based on the property found during a state police raid of White’s home and business in Edgewood in April.
In court, the former county manager, Belinda Garland, took the stand and went through a long list of purchase orders made during White’s time as sheriff, including thousands of dollars worth of tires, a couple of rifles and other equipment.
She called some of those orders “questionable” and said she didn’t know where some of the items wound up. “I’ve been back in their evidence room several times. I could not see where all this equipment was being stored. I told them I want to know where all this stuff is,” Garland said. “We contacted the FBI in regards to what we felt was procurement violations.”
She was also concerned that some of it were shipped to the Old Mill feed store in Edgewood where White’s wife works instead of a county facility.
The defense maintained there was no embezzlement and that it’s no secret White and other members of the department have county property at their homes because there’s little to no storage space at the Torrance County Sheriff’s Office.
He said White at one point even tried to get fencing put in at the sheriff’s office to help store department property. The hearing is scheduled to last through Friday.
White was elected Torrance County magistrate judge last year. He’s been on suspension since April.