DOCUMENT: Governor's general counsel ordered state police to spy on Democratic District Attorney
DOCUMENT: Governor’s general counsel ordered state police to spy on Democratic District Attorney
Officer details directions from Martinez appointees to secretly record confidential law enforcement investigation
June 10, 2013: A New Mexico State Police officer says he was ordered by Governor Susana Martinez’s general counsel and a former Republican district attorney to surreptitiously record a confidential law enforcement conversation with a Democratic district attorney Martinez actively campaigned against during the 2012 elections.
In April 2013, State Police Officer Raul Robles authored an internal memo (read below) to Deputy Chief Pete Kassetas writing: “I was asked to record the meeting by Amy Orlando and Steven Blankenship. Amy Orlando, being the past District Attorney and Steven Blankenship being as Assistant District Attorney from the last administration” (sic). Robles added that, “The topic of the meeting was the Sunland Park Case.”
Robles was the State Police officer initially assigned to investigate an election fraud case in the city of Sunland Park. The case was initiated just months after Martinez assumed the governorship and appointed her deputy district attorney, Amy Orlando, to fill out the remainder of her term as district attorney. The case passed to the newly elected Democrat Mark D’Antonio after Orlando, actively supported by Martinez, lost a heated 2012 election.
D’Antonio has since asked the attorney general to take over the case to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, the State Police captain overseeing the Las Cruces area confirmed the existence of the memo and investigation.
Blankinship, an appointee of Martinez and Orlando, left the District Attorney’s Office after Orlando lost the election. He now serves in the governor’s office of general counsel. Orlando now works in a social work position with the Children Youth and Families Department. Neither has law enforcement duties.
“If the governor’s lawyer directed the state police to spy on a political opponent, we are left to wonder who told him to do this, who else have they targeted and what would they have done with the tape had they not been stopped,” says Pat Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico, a non-profit progressive advocacy group.
“There is no legitimate justification for this abuse of power. None. Neither Blankenship nor Orlando have anything to do with this case any longer, and they sure don’t have any business directing law enforcement officers to secretly record confidential law enforcement conversations with political opponents. This doesn’t seem like a legitimate prosecutor-to-police officer meeting anymore.
“We are calling for the governor to immediately explain her role in this and answer whether she and her staff were actively trying to interfere with a criminal investigation, trying to blackmail their opponent, or worse.”
Sunland Park officials previously criticized Martinez in her role as district attorney for failing to act on allegations and investigations involving election irregularities in Sunland Park.
Deputy District Attorney in the 3rd Judicial District (Las Cruces, NM) during Susana Martinez’s tenure as DA. Martinez appoints Orlando to fill out her unexpired term when Martinez assumes the Office of Governor in Jan. 2011
A prosecutor under Martinez and Orlando, Blankinship was initially assigned to prosecute voting irregularities uncovered in the Sunland Park investigation. When Orlando lost her bid for DA in Nov. 2012, Blankinship left the DA’s office. State records show that he was hired by the Lt. Gov. in Dec 2012.
He now appears in the State Bar directory, on the governor’s website and US Supreme Court amicus briefs listed as the governor’s general counsel.