MARCH 11, 2009
A corrupt New Mexico lawmaker who pleaded guilty to three felonies for his role in a courthouse construction scandal has strong support from a series of notable politicians who have written to the federal judge who will sentence him next week.
The unconditional backing from a who’s who of New Mexico public figures has outraged numerous residents who launched a letter campaign of their own, asking U.S. District Judge William Johnson to issue the maximum punishment because the public’s trust was betrayed by a crooked elected official.
The case involves former New Mexico State Senate President Pro Tempore Manny Aragon. In October, the Albuquerque Democrat pleaded guilty to three felonies—conspiracy and two counts of mail fraud—for stealing $650,000 from an $84 million courthouse construction project in Bernalillo County. Aragon conspired with the architect in charge of the project to inflate invoices.
As part of the deal, entered the day after two others pleaded guilty on the corruption scandal, the veteran legislator agreed to forfeit a personal bank account worth $740,000. Architect Marc Schiff and Albuquerque Mayor Ken Schultz have also pleaded guilty and others are expected to fall soon.
Incredibly, some of the state’s most prominent leaders in politics, religion, sports and law are asking for leniency in Aragon’s sentence. Among them is the current Senate President Pro Tem (Tim Jennings) who touts his disgraced predecessor’s public service and urges the court to consider his contributions as well as his transgressions.
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