Susana Martinez staff used law enforcement databases to do research for campaign, recovered emails show

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The governor’s emails have been a theme since day one of her administration.  First official emails obtained by public records request showed industry lobbyists rewriting pollution rules to benefit their industry.  Then leaked campaign account emails showed lobbyists, top public officials and the governor’s political team discussing public business on a private email system.

Now we learn that emails during the time of her first campaign were intentionally destroyed.  That has a lot of people asking important questions, including this one summarized by the Santa Fe Reporter:

The most serious allegation in the new Mother Jones profile on Gov. Susana Martinez isn’t the soundbites of Martinez wondering “what the hell” the Commission on the Status of Women does all day, referring to her Democratic opponent as “that little bitch” or implying that teachers are overpaid.

It’s a paragraph tucked in the middle of the profile that has gotten little attention:


Martinez’s crew saw enemies everywhere. A former staffer recalls the campaign on multiple occasions sending the license plate numbers of cars believed to be used by opposition trackers to an investigator in Martinez’s DA office who had access to law enforcement databases. In one instance, a campaign aide took a photo of a license plate on a car with an anti-Martinez bumper sticker and emailed it to the investigator. “Cool I will see who it belongs to!!” the investigator replied.

Depending on the exact circumstances, using a federal law enforcement database to conduct political research on an individual constitutes a federal crime under a US computer fraud statute. Violators of the statute could face a year of imprisonment, fines or both for each unauthorized use—for each unlawful query in a federal law enforcement database.

SFR has been unable to verify the allegation in its own investigation because a state agency destroyed the relevant records and a federal agency would not turn over records to confirm or deny it.

Then, earlier this month, Dona Ana County’s current District Attorney, Mark D’Antonio, released an explosive report concluding that email records from the Susana Martinez and Amy Orlando administrations had been intentionally deleted.

That report prompted Attorney General Gary King to open a criminal investigation into the destroyed emails.
But ProgressNow New Mexico also reported that we had recovered some of the deleted emails from a little known backup server in Albuquerque. Our public records requests to the Administrative Office of the District Attorneys uncovered 286 previously sent and deleted emails from Amy Orlando during her time as Susana Martinez’s top deputy prosecutor and later during her term as the appointed district attorney.

So what was on the deleted emails?

We’ve been analyzing them looking for evidence that then-District Attorney Susana Martinez had her staff use confidential law enforcement databases to do research on opponents and issues in the campaign.

Here’s what we found.

On August 29, 2010 – two months before the election – Amy Orlando sends an email telling her sister, “I’m working on an add for sm. (sic)” That email comes at 6:04PM, after hours but on Orlando’s work email account.

Amy Orlando email

Amy Orlando email

What type of ad could she be working on at the office after hours? Let’s go to the emails.

Earlier that same day, at 12:06pm, she sent an email to the office’s chief investigator, Kip, directing him to do a check on a person she says was “deported.”

Amy Orlando email directing investigation

Amy Orlando email directing investigation (personal information redacted by ProgressNow NM)

Saying “first one” implies that they checked on many more and the email reveals that other people were involved in checking records, too. Orlando later responds that “Robins running on cms! (sic).”   CMS is the statewide case management system for district attorneys. It contains the confidential prosecution files and documents associated with each case. Robin appears to be Robin Bruck, the office manager implicated in the DA’s report on destroyed emails.

Natividad Mendoza was convicted of numerous felony child abuse offenses in Dona Ana County and Orlando’s email suggests that he may have had a driver’s license number listed in his booking records.

Remember that the Martinez campaign was campaigning hard against the policy that provided driver’s licenses to undocumented persons in New Mexico (New Mexico was one of the few to do so in 2010. At least 13 other states do so now).

Just two days after Orlando directed investigators to check on a person she prosecuted whom she thought was a deported foreign national, Susana Martinez came out with a TV ad featuring arrest and booking photos of foreign nationals in Dona Ana County.

Susana Martinez for Gov. "License" Ad, 2010

Susana Martinez for Gov. “License” Ad, Sept. 1, 2010

So how did they obtain all of those booking records and is it any coincidence they all came from Dona Ana County where she worked?   Let’s go to the emails.

Amy Orlando, Robin Bruck email

Amy Orlando, Robin Bruck email

Shredded.   The pile of “booking sheets… that did not have a drivers license (sic)” they poured over after hours. And the “can I shred?” email comes just days after Orlando, Susana’s top investigator and Orlando email about using law enforcement databases and working after hours to check up on people who might appear in an “ad for SM.”

The deleted emails appear to show that Martinez’s DA staff used law enforcement databases for campaign research that later ended up in campaign ads.  Did Kip Scarborough check targets through NCIC?  Did they use confidential prosecutor and law enforcement databases to identify people and cases they wanted to profile in campaign commercials for Susana Martinez?  The emails seem to suggest they did.

What else is in the deleted and shredded papers? We deserve to know.