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Block pleads guilty to felony; won’t serve time

December 3, 2018

Former state Public Regulation Commission member Jerome Block Jr., whose short and troubled political career was derailed by drug addiction, pleaded guilty Friday in state District Court to a felony count of receiving stolen property.

But while that crime carries a possible sentence of up to three years in prison, Block will not be forced to spend time in jail, according to a plea agreement he signed with the District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors also will not seek habitual-offender enhancement of the sentence for Block, who has multiple felony convictions, including fraudulently using a state government credit card while serving as an elected member of the body that regulates utilities and other industries in New Mexico.

Block, 41, was charged with two third-degree felonies — burglary and receiving stolen property — for stealing a $6,700 watch, $600 worth of gift cards and $380 in cash from an Oklahoma couple’s time-share condominium in November 2017 at a downtown Santa Fe complex formerly managed by Block’s mother.

At the time, Block had been working at the Otra Vez condominiums as a handyman and security guard, prosecutor Johnn Osborn said Friday. He was caught on camera entering the condominium while the couple, who were visiting the city during Thanksgiving week last year, were asleep. The camera also caught him leaving with their property in his arms.

“This happened during a lapse in his sobriety,” said Block’s lawyer, Juan Valencia, who added his client has been receiving treatment for drug addiction since shortly after last year’s burglary.

State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ordered Block to take a drug test during a break in Friday’s hearing. Valencia said his client has been using methadone — a synthetic opioid used for opioid maintenance therapy.

But Block’s test result, announced by the judge when the hearing resumed, came back negative.

Marlowe Sommer set Block’s sentencing for Jan. 30. She also ordered a presentencing report on Block from the state’s adult probation and parole office before she hands down the sentence.

Block — whose father, Jerome Block Sr., at one time also served on the Public Regulation Commission — was elected to the PRC in 2008.

The younger Block has said at past court hearings that he’s been a drug addict since 2006 — which was two years before he was elected to the commission.

Judges have been hesitant to send him to prison.

In 2011, he pleaded guilty to six felony counts for fraudulent use of a state credit card, as well as violating campaign finance laws and embezzling public funds during his campaign. Because of the felony convictions, he had to resign from his $90,000-a-year job on the commission.

He also pleaded no contest that year to a charge of embezzlement. This was for taking a car from a Santa Fe auto dealer for a test drive and not returning it. Police found the vehicle parked near the Otra Vez building.

Block could have been sentenced to more than four years in prison for those crimes, which occurred while he was in office. But a judge sentenced him to the Drug Court program and required him to pay restitution instead.

In 2012, just three months after Block started the Drug Court program, he was kicked out of the program for texting a teenage girl in the Juvenile Drug Court program about prescription drugs. The girl had asked Block by text if he could get Oxycontin. He answered her “yes.”

Block also has violated his parole at least twice. In 2014 Marlowe Sommer ordered him back into Drug Court following one of his parole violations.

The victims in the 2017 burglary case told The New Mexican last year that they had offered not to press charges if Block returned the watch and worked out a repayment plan for the value of the other stolen goods. But they decided to pursue the case when the watch wasn’t returned.

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