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Padilla seeks dismissal of charges over coffeepot recording

May 1, 2019
FILE - In this Friday, July 13, 2018 file photo, defense attorney Paul Kennedy, left, Demesia Padilla, center, the former secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department; with her husband, Jessie Medina appear in district court in Santa Fe, N.M. Padilla has pleaded not guilty to public corruption charges and her attorney is asking that the case be dismissed. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s former tax chief contends her due process rights were violated when investigators with the state attorney general’s office used a coffeepot outfitted with a recording device to secretly record a conversation with her attorney.

The allegation is outlined in a recent court filing that seeks the dismissal of public corruption charges against Demesia Padilla, who resigned in 2016 after investigators raided tax department offices.

Padilla pleaded not guilty to several charges last year that she embezzled money from a former client of her accounting firm and had advocated as tax secretary for abatement of a penalty against that same client.

The allegation of the secret recording is the focus of one of several pending defense motions in a case that is scheduled to go to trial this summer, The Albuquerque Journal reported .

The latest motion accuses the attorney general’s office of outrageous conduct. But prosecutors argued in a response filed Tuesday with the court that they had a law enforcement interest in recording the agents’ interview of Padilla.

The attorney general’s office denies surreptitiously listening in, saying the coffeepot recording device — which was on loan from the Albuquerque Police Department — stopped recording while Padilla was talking with her attorney.

A ruling on the motion could come later this month.

Padilla’s attorney, Paul Kennedy, argued that agents with the attorney general’s office hid multiple recording devices around the office in which they were interviewing Padilla. The interview happened more than a year before she was ultimately charged with a crime.

When Padilla asked to speak privately with her attorney, they were not informed of the secret coffeepot recorder and camera, according to the court filing. The attorney argued that their subsequent conversation was also likely used to help guide the attorney general’s investigation.

“In this case, the state’s conduct violated due process and warrants dismissal,” Kennedy argued in the motion, adding that the secret recording violated Padilla’s attorney-client privilege.

The attorney general’s office said in its response that Padilla was told her interview with investigators was being recorded — although apparently the coffeepot recording device was not disclosed.

David Carl, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Padilla and her attorney were informed that their interview was appropriately recorded and no privileged communications were obtained.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com