Monday, June 17, 2013

Estrada Pleads Not Guilty, Lawyer Promises to Expose Problems in Government's Case

Gov. Susana Martinez’s former campaign manager Jamie Estrada on Monday pleaded not guilty to all counts of illegally intercepting Martinez’s campaign email and lying to lying to the FBI.

Estrada made his plea at an arraignment hearing in federal court. It was his first appearance in the case. He is charged with 12 counts of email theft and two counts of lying to the FBI.

After the hearing, Estrada’s lawyer Zach Ives spoke to reporters as Estrada stood beside him.

“Jamie Estrada is not guilty of the charges against him,” Ives said. “This is just the beginning of a process that should allow us to expose the significant legal and factual problems with the government’s case.”

Ives declined to detail the problems he said he sees in the case.

Estrada served as Martinez’s campaign manager for several months in 2009. Martinez has said she fired him from the campaign. Estrada, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission in 2010, has insisted that he left on his accord.

The FBI, in affidavits, say Estrada kept the password on Martinez’s campaign website domain and renewed the account — using a fake name — after it expired and diverted emails to a separate account he controlled.

Many of the emails ended up in the hands of Martinez’s political enemies including Independent Source PAC, a union-funded group that has been highly critical of the administration, and Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman, who since has been elected state Democratic Party chairman.

The leaked emails showed that it in the first year of the Martinez administration it was common for key officials to conduct state business on private email accounts — including the old campaign email account — rather than their official state email accounts, which frequently are inspected by news organizations and others.

Soon after the first leaked emails were publicized, Martinez ordered her staff to use their official accounts.

In his only statement to reporters, made on the day his indictment was announced, Estrada said, “Individuals in whom the public has placed its trust have come after me in an attempt to divert attention from their own improper actions, including the suspected Albuquerque Downs Racino bid rigging.”

That was a reference to a controversial racetrack and casino contract awarded to Martinez supporters. Some of the leaked emails dealt with that contract process.

Also implicated in the email case is Democratic consultant Jason Loera, who, the FBI affidavits say was in frequent contact with Estrada and others. He was indicted on child pornography charges after investigators say they found sexual images of children on his computers, which had been seized during the email investigation.

UPDATE 4:55 pm Republican lawyer Pat Rogers, who attended Estrada's indictment, just sent a lengthy statement concerning the case. Rogers is not one of the parties to the case, though he said he was interviewed by the  FBI about the emails. According to FBI affidavits, after newspapers began publishing stories about the governor's emails, Rogers was sent by Gov. Martinez and her political consultant Jay McCleskey last year to confront Estrada, who denied any role in renewing the internet domain.

Some emails sent by Rogers led to him resigning from the Foundation for Open Government board as well as from his job at the Modrall Sperling law firm in Albuquerque.

Here's his statement:

Stealing property such as private emails is a serious federal felony offense and it has significant consequences including prison time, fines and restitution obligations.  Mr. Estrada’s decision to steal and misuse private emails, with the help of Sam Bregman, the state party chairman of the Democrats, Michael Corwin, former Gov. Richardson’s private investigator  and other hyper-partisan Democrat political hacks, is a decision that is unlawful, unfortunate and not exempt from the reach of the law.  The public and all honest citizens concerned about privacy or thieves stealing and misusing private property should appreciate the work of the FBI agents and the prosecutors involved.  

The suggestion that Mr. Estrada hijacked and disseminated the emails as part of a plan to expose `wrongdoing' by others is a desperate and  late invention  that does not begin to explain why he would also lie to the FBI.   

In addition, I was an attorney for two of the owners of the Albuquerque Downs.  I did negotiate the competitive and open lease that replaced the  sole source, secret   deal proposed during the Richardson administration.  I have met with FBI agents and had a number of conversations. All discussions have concerned the people involved in stealing and misusing the emails stolen from the governor’s private email account . I was never asked about the Albuquerque Downs.