SILVER CITY, N.M. — The lawyer for a southwestern New Mexico District Attorney said the criminal charges filed against his client are “a shameful political attack” and are in retaliation for the prosecutor going public about problems with a police evidence locker.
Francesca Martinez-Estevez denies all charges against her, her lawyer Jim Foy said.
The Attorney General’s Office last week charged Martinez-Estevez with five misdemeanor counts. She is accused of violating ethical principles as a public official in connection with a traffic stop in June 2016. Officers thought Martinez-Estevez was drunk but didn’t test her for alcohol.
Both Silver City and state police officials conducted separate internal investigations on the incident and both agencies disciplined the officers involved.
“Our defense team asserts these charges are political grandstanding for the benefit of catering to the other high-ranking politicians and political payback for Ms. Estevez shedding public light on serious problems with the drug task force evidence locker,” Foy wrote in a statement.
Foy says Martinez-Estevez cooperated with all the officers’ requests and did not ask for any special treatment. But Martinez-Estevez is accused of telling officers she would hate to see the U.S. Justice Department take over their department because of officers’ failings.
In April 2016, Martinez-Estevez issued a news release saying she had been made aware of irregularities in the handling and storing of evidence by law enforcement officers assigned to a regional drug trafficking task force, according to published reports. An audit found mishandling of evidence in cases dating back as far as 2011.
Martinez-Estevez, a Democrat, won re-election last year. Her arraignment is set for Monday in Silver City.