As promised, N.M. Secretary of State Dianna Duran pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to criminal charges related to abusing the state’s campaign finance system.
Meanwhile, the Legislative Council approved $250,000 in funding for a bipartisan committee House Speaker Don Tripp has appointed to investigate possible impeachment of Duran, said James Hallinan, a spokesman for the attorney general.
Tuesday’s court appearance was Duran’s first. From the Albuquerque Journal:
Duran was stoic during the 30-minute appearance before District Judge Glenn Ellington. She did not speak to reporters while leaving the courthouse through a side exit, and her husband at one [point] pushed away a television reporter’s microphone.
During the hearing, Duran’s attorney raised several technical complaints about the charges filed against Duran, but the judge rejected motions to dismiss part or all of the case.
“She’s not been convicted of any offenses,” Duran’s attorney, Erlinda Johnson, said at one point during the hearing. “As she sits today, she is an elected official.”
The office of Attorney General Hector Balderas filed the 64-count criminal complaint against Duran in late August alleging fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.
The case centers on allegations that Duran used campaign funds to cover gambling at several New Mexico casinos.
Johnson had already said the embattled secretary of state would plead not guilty.
The judge ordered Duran to stay away from casinos as part of the conditions of her release, the Journal reported. And from Albuquerque’s KOB-TV:
Duran will be released on her own recognizance. Her conditions of release include no drugs or alcohol and she cannot leave New Mexico unless it is for state business.
A preliminary hearing is expected to take place sometime between mid-November and December.
For now, Duran remains the secretary of state. Duties of her office including supervising elections, overseeing the state’s campaign finance reporting system, and handling registrations for corporations.
Duran hasn’t been in the office since she was charged on Aug. 28.
This article has been updated to include the Legislative Council’s action.