Lawyer: State 'hiding' evidence

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By David Giuliani

The attorney for West Las Vegas’ former superintendent contends the state attorney general’s office has hidden evidence from a grand jury.

Last week, Kathleen Love, attorney for Joe Baca, asked District Court in San Miguel County to demand that the state present evidence and witnesses to the grand jury, which is slated to be convened soon.

Grand juries are rare in San Miguel County; most defendants get preliminary hearings in which their attorneys get to cross-examine the state’s witnesses.

“Instead of an open and public preliminary hearing where Mr. Baca could present evidence of his innocence, the Attorney General instead chose to have a closed grand jury investigation into the matters of his case,” Love states in her pleading.

Baca and three others, school board member Ralph Garcia, former Bilingual Director Roberta Vigil and former bilingual aide Beverly Ortega, are facing charges in connection with allegations of fraudulent spending in the bilingual program, including for a $10,000 invitation-only, adults-only party.

The state originally filed the charges in Santa Fe, where a grand jury indicted the four suspects. Recently, however, most of the charges were transferred to San Miguel County because Love had argued that’s where the alleged crimes had occurred.

Love’s pleading states that the grand jury hearing is Friday, but the District Court didn’t have any record of that hearing or any of the files associated with the defendants. An employee said he hadn’t heard of any grand jury hearing.

Love contends that the state would mislead the grand jury if it prevents it from seeing all relevant evidence.

“By hiding evidence from the grand jury, a prosecutor violates his/her duty of impartiality, an accused citizen’s right to fundamental fairness and due process...,” Love writes in her pleading.

She states that she has put the AG’s office on notice that she could present documents and witnesses that would make Baca’s indictment unjustified.

Phil Sisneros, spokesman for the AG’s office, didn’t return a call for comment this week. He has said before that his agency doesn’t comment on cases involving indicted suspects.

Last week, Love told the Optic that the state was wrongly pursuing Baca, whom she called an innocent man. She said a state police officer who investigated the case didn’t consider Baca a suspect.

Love said Baca relied on Vigil, the bilingual director, to properly spend bilingual program money.

However, Vigil’s attorney, Sam Bregman, has contended that higher-ups approved all of Vigil’s spending. And Vigil’s husband, state Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, has blamed the superintendent and the school board for the problems.