Former secretary of state Rebecca Vigil-Giron has no job, few obligations, too much idle time. At 56, her life is on hold, but she still burns with one ambition. “I want vindication,” she said.
Almost two years have passed since state Attorney General Gary King obtained indictments against Vigil-Giron and three other people who were contract employees in her office. They are charged with 49 counts of money laundering, fraud and kickbacks.
“I was quiet for quite a while. Not now. This is a political witch hunt,” Vigil-Giron said in an interview.
Her trial date still has not been scheduled, and for the last four months the state has not even had a prosecutor in place to proceed against her. A state district judge in Albuquerque removed King from the case in March, citing appearances of a conflict.
Now the judge, Pat Murdoch, has given King and the district attorney in Albuquerque until Aug. 1 to hire a special prosecutor or he will dismiss the case against Vigil-Giron.
The state’s charges center on how the office Vigil-Giron headed used $6 million. The money, from federal taxpayers, was intended to buy television and radio ads as part of a voter education program in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Her codefendants were media consultants.
Vigil-Giron, at once calm and agitated, said she lives under a cloud of suspicion and is anxious to clear her name. She answered every question in interview sessions without checking with her defense attorney.
Vigil-Giron said she is innocent, so she has no hesitation in discussing the case without a lawyer at her side. The allegation that she stole or maneuvered to siphon the money for herself bothers her most.
“Embezzlement? What could I possibly have embezzled? I never had any access to that money,” Vigil-Giron said.
She predicted that she will be exonerated in the next four months, and that her case will be the undoing of King, a fellow Democrat who aspires to be governor.
“He wanted to prosecute us to further his political career,” Vigil-Giron said.
King, she said, trumped up the charges against her and even then was unable to mount a credible prosecution, so he has dragged out the case to save himself. King said his office had allocated $200,000 to continue financing the prosecution of Vigil-Giron and her codefendants by the special prosecutor.
Vigil-Giron said King already had wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars and misrepresented the evidence in overt displays.
“They came in with 12 boxes, trying to make it seem like the case was complicated and there was all this minutiae,” Vigil-Giron said.
In fact, she said, the boxes contained many invoices and extraneous records that have nothing to do with the case or the charges. The boxes were for show, designed to overshadow King’s lack of evidence and his unwillingness to admit that he had nothing solid to proceed with, Vigil-Giron said.
She said her own financial records are lean and simple. She earned a salary as secretary of state and she had a public retirement account. That was it.
For his part, King recently held a 90-minute news conference in his Albuquerque office to say he had met all his professional obligations in various corruption cases. In particular, he said he had no conflict and did nothing wrong in Vigil-Giron’s case.
Vigil-Giron, a three-term secretary of state, said she slightly knew King when he served in the state House of Representatives. She said he was not an influential legislator, so her dealings with him were cursory as she lobbied lawmakers on behalf of her office’s needs. She said the fact that she ran for Congress twice heightened her political profile, and made her an inviting target for King when he was elected attorney general.