After 30 Days in Jail for Corruption, New Mexico's Ex-Secretary of State Freed

by | January 18, 2016 AT 12:10 PM

By Robert Nott

Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran ended her 30-day jail sentence Sunday morning, leaving the Santa Fe County jail in a light gray sweatsuit and carrying a large, plastic bag full of personal belongings.

She declined to talk to reporters as she walked with two jail staffers to a waiting truck, other than to utter "no" when asked if she wanted to comment on her time behind bars for using campaign donations to feed a gambling addiction. Duran, who reported to jail Dec. 18, had asked a judge to delay her sentence until after the holiday season, but that request was denied.

One man helped usher Duran into the back seat of a truck, and another man, who covered his face with his hand, drove the pair out of the jail complex, off N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe.

She was released shortly before 9 a.m. and was off the property within about a minute.

Duran will remain on a monitored five-year probation. The Adult Probation and Parole Office fitted her with a GPS tracking device to stop her from entering any gambling establishments. After two years, Duran can request to have the device removed, a judge said. But she will remain on probation.

Like other inmates at the county jail, Duran, 60, was placed in a standard 6-foot-by-8-foot cell, wore a khaki uniform and was served three meals a day.

Kristine Mihelcic, a Santa Fe County spokeswoman, said in an email Thursday that jail officials did not report any misbehavior by Duran during her monthlong stay.

Critics ranging from lawmakers to laymen complained that District Judge T. Glenn Ellington, who sentenced Duran late last year, was too lenient with her, given that she had committed the very type of wrongdoing that she had vowed to end when she ran for office.

A woman in a car parked in the county jail lot Sunday morning said Duran "should have gotten five years." The woman, who did not want to be identified, said her son had committed a minor infraction and received a nine-month jail sentence, making Duran's stint behind bars look light in comparison.

In December, Duran accepted a plea deal in which she agreed to plead guilty to six out of the 65 charges against her. Two were felony charges and the other four were misdemeanors.

Ellington could have sentenced her to over seven years behind bars.

In addition to her 30-day jail sentence and five-year probation, Duran has to pay a $14,000 fine, pay $13,866 in restitution and publish apologies for her crimes in six newspapers across the state.

Ellington also ordered Duran to perform 2,000 hours of community service at charities and to speak at schools and civic organizations across the state about how her lawbreaking led to her downfall and jail time.

In her plea bargain with Attorney General Hector Balderas' staff, Duran pleaded guilty to stealing campaign donations and doctoring state campaign reports to cover up her embezzlement. Her crimes started in 2010, according to Balderas' investigators.

Duran, a Tularosa resident, had previously served as Otero County clerk and then as a state senator. In 2010, she became the first Republican to head the Secretary of State's Office since 1929.

She prided herself on battling public corruption and voter fraud, even as she committed such crimes.

Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Brad Winter, a Republican city councilor from Albuquerque, to succeed Duran as secretary of state. Winter, a councilor since 1999 and a longtime public school administrator, has said he will not run for election to the secretary of state's position. But Duran's rival in the 2014 race for secretary of state, Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, has announced another bid for the office.

(c)2016 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)