Conflict with Santa Fe DA sends lobbyist’s DWI case to Farmington

May 3, 2019

Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna has asked his counterpart in Farmington to handle a case involving a lobbyist for Rio Arriba County who Española police arrested on an aggravated drunken-driving charge.

Eric Martinez, 34, a contract lobbyist for Rio Arriba and several other clients, was booked on the charge Jan. 20 after he refused to take a breath-alcohol test. The Rio Grande Sun reported an officer found Martinez passed out in his black Mercedes in a Taco Bell drive-thru after midnight.

But because of political contributions from the lobbyist, Serna, whose district includes Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties, won’t be prosecuting the case.

“In order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, the case is being handled by the 11th Judicial DA’s office given the lobbyist’s past political contributions,” a spokesman for Serna said this week. The 11th Judicial District includes San Juan and McKinley counties in northwestern New Mexico.

State campaign finance records show Martinez contributed $600 to Serna’s campaign in September 2016, before that year’s general election, and $500 in September 2018. Serna is up for reelection in 2020.

Serna is among a number of political candidates who have received donations from Martinez. Reports filed by Martinez show he spent more than $10,000 on political contributions last year, with the lion’s share going to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, to whom he gave $5,500 on behalf of the parent company of his client New Mexico Treatment Services.

Others who got campaign cash from Martinez last year include House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe; state Auditor Brian Colón; state Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard; state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe; Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas; Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas; Rep. Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde; Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos; Rep. G. Andres Romero, D-Albuquerque; former Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española; former Rio Arriba County Commissioner Barney Trujillo, who ran for a House seat that year but lost to Sanchez in the primary; and former Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, who herself was convicted of drunken driving last year.

In a February interview, Martinez told the New Mexican he was not drunk when he was arrested. He said he declined to take a breath-alcohol test because he was tired.

“It was the first week of the Legislature, and I’d been working 16-hour days,” he said. “I was just wanting to get home, and I was tired.”

Under the state’s implied consent law, a driver’s refusal to take a breath-alcohol test is grounds for a charge of aggravated DWI. That charge also applies to a driver whose test results indicate a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent or more.

A person also may be charged with aggravated DWI in the case of an accident believed to be related to alcohol use.

Martinez’s lawyer, Tom Clark of Santa Fe, who has asked for a jury trial, could not be reached for comment this week.

A pretrial hearing is set for May 21 in Española.