A jury found former state Sen. Phil Griego guilty on Thursday of five charges stemming from his dual role as a legislator who helped push approval of the sale of a state building and a broker who made money off the transaction.
The convictions — on counts of bribery, fraud and violating the state’s ethics laws — included four felonies.
Griego could face up to 17.5 years in prison, though he’s free for now while awaiting sentencing.
“Holding the powerful accountable is how we ensure our government truly serves the citizens of New Mexico and that no one is above the law, regardless of their political status,” said state Attorney General Hector Balderas, whose office prosecuted the case.
Griego, D-San Jose, “was largely stoic as the verdict came in,” the Albuquerque Journal reported. “His wife was in tears.”
Griego, 69, didn’t speak to reporters when he left the courthouse in Santa Fe, the Journal reported. “I don’t believe the state proved its case, but the jury thought otherwise,” Griego’s attorney Tom Clark told reporters.
Though Balderas’ office gets credit for prosecuting Griego, journalism first shone light on Griego’s misdeeds. The Santa Fe Reporter published an investigative report in 2014 about Griego’s brokering of the sale of the historic Santa Fe building that he also voted, in his official role, to sell. He made $50,000 on the deal.
Griego, who served for 18 years, resigned from the Senate in 2015, during a legislative inquiry into the deal. He admitted to ethics violations, but that didn’t stop the criminal investigations.
In a second, pending case, Griego faces 22 felony and misdemeanor counts including embezzlement, fraud, perjury and filing a false campaign report stemming from allegations that he personally and illegally benefited from his campaign’s funds and lied about it on public reports.
“Public officials are elected to do the work of the people, not to enrich themselves from their official duties while New Mexicans struggle just to get by,” Balderas said following Thursday’s verdict. “New Mexico families deserve the highest level of ethics and service from their elected officials.”