New Mexico

Criminal trial against former Doña Ana Co. Treasurer dismissed

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - The criminal trial of embattled Former Dona Ana Co. Treasurer David Gutierrez has been dismissed.

The trial was set to start Tuesday, November 8 in Alamogordo.

According to Defense Attorney Joe Coronado, District Judge Angie Schneider ruled the statute under which Gutierrez was being prosecuted did not entail criminal matters, but ethical ones.

"We respectfully disagree with the judge's decision and plan on filing an appeal. However, this doesn't affect the removal case which is scheduled to go to trial later this month," Patrick Hayes, a spokesman with the DA's office, said.

Gutierrez still faces a civil removal trial scheduled for November 29th.

Earlier this year, Gutierrez threatened to sue Doña Ana County, stating county leaders violated his rights and instigated criminal charges against him. A grand jury indicted Gutierrez in March 2016 on allegations he committed public corruption and gross immorality by a public official.

The charges stem from accusations Gutierrez offered a woman working in his office $1,000 to have sex with him. The incident allegedly took place in 2014 after the employee came up short in her cash drawer.  However, charges were not filed until after county officials formally requested that the district attorney's office investigate. This after Gutierrez refused to resign.

The county later gave that employee $68,000 in a settlement.

The ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom got a hold of the Tort Claim Notice Gutierrez sent to Doña Ana County Clerk, Lynn Ellins.

In the letter, Gutierrez states county commissioners and County Manager Julia Brown forced the New Mexico Association of Counties (NMAC) to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit. He states they did it to force Gutierrez to pay the cost of settling the case with the said employee, adding they knew that there was no legal basis to require Gutierrez to reimburse the county.

"This was done as part of their effort to harass me and apply pressure against me for refusing to resign from my position," the letter states. He goes on to say "I write you this letter to let you know that I may sue the county and anyone within the county for violating my rights."

At the time, ABC-7 spoke with County Manager Julia Brown about the potential lawsuit. She said she is "very confident the county has done all it that it has the statutory authority to do, with respect to the actions taken by Mr. Gutierrez."

Brown added that after conferring with NMAC, the county feels "very confident that its appropriate to us to seek to recover from him (Gutierrez) funds that the county and the NMAC have had to pay out as a result of the inappropriate activity on his part."

Gutierrez states he his hoping to resolve the matter without litigation.

If convicted as charged in the criminal case, Gutierrez would have faced up to 18 months in prison.

Tuesday, voters will elect Gutierrez's replacement to the position as county treasurer. Democrat and Chief Deputy Treasurer Eric Rodriguez will face former chief deputy treasurer Jill Johnson in the election.

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