Ironically, of the seven US Attorneys purged by Alberto Gonzales last December, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, who has received little attention in the press, is perhaps the most famous of the group...but most people just don't know it.
While a Navy JAG officer in 1986 he was the defense counsel in a Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, court-martial of two men accused of assaulting a fellow Marine. Iglesias, and his defense in that case, later became the inspiration for the movie, "A Few Good Men."
Nominated for the position of US Attorney by George W. Bush in August of 2001 and approved by the US Senate in October, Iglesias became the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. attorney since the Nixon administration.
He announced his "forced resignation" on December 19, 2006.
The hit on Iglesias was issued on Dec. 7 - "Pearl Harbor Day," he says without irony - though news of his departure as the top federal prosecutor for New Mexico didn't make the papers until this week.
Iglesias, 48, wasn't alone. He says several U.S. attorneys have been dismissed by the Bush administration in recent weeks.
he talks about his departure with a calm, measured dignity.
"I can't complain that I only had 5 years," he says. "It was a fantastic ride. I think we got some good results for the people of New Mexico. And no one can say we hosed up the office. The opposite is true."
Judging from Iglesias' background one would assume he had a bright future in Republican politics.
Background on Iglesias (1)(2)
- Wheaton College 1980
- University Of New Mexico School Of Law 1984
Career highlights prior to appointment as US Attorney:
- Navy JAG officer from 1985-1988 at the Pentagon and Naval Legal Service Office, Washington, D.C. Defense counsel in a Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, court-martial that inspired the movie, "A Few Good Men."
- Assistant State Attorney General, office of special prosecutions, 1988-91
- Chief Counsel for the state Risk Management Division, 1988-91.
- Assistant city attorney for Albuquerque, civil rights division, 1991-94;
- White House fellow, 1994-95
- In 1998, ran for State Attorney General, losing to Patricia Madrid
- As Captain in the Naval Reserve JAG Corps in late 1999 served two months with the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, and onboard the aircraft carrier, USS John F. Kennedy in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch
As US Attorney:
- Confirmed in October 2001
- Member of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee
- Chairman of the Attorney General's Border and Immigration Subcommittee
(1) American Indian Development Associates (AIDA)Presenter biographies
(2) Albuquerque Tribune, December, 19, 2006
So why would someone who on paper looks like a Republican golden-boy be unceremoniously given the boot?
Phill Casaus of the Albuquerque Tribune has a theory:
And now this: Iglesias, a straight arrow from GOP Central Casting, being deposed in a way that may hurt him if he ever runs for office.
Given his resume, he'd be a natural for something big. A young, intelligent, telegenic Hispanic Republican with federal prosecutorial credentials? Think that might work in an election?
Apparently, someone in D.C. didn't care. That's what's so interesting. Maybe someone there - in close contact with someone here - was incredibly disappointed by the results of the corruption case of former state Treasurer Robert Vigil, a Democrat. Or, maybe, that special someone wanted November indictments in an unrelated public corruption investigation that may make the Vigil-Montoya affair look like a jaywalking ticket.
Maybe someone thought the right kind of results in both instances might've helped the GOP's fortunes in November's elections.
Cases prosecuted by Iglesias
Iglesias, working with the FBI, was responsible for charging two state treasurers with extortion & both Democrats.
New Mexico's state treasurer and his predecessor were charged on Friday with taking about $700,000 in kickbacks.
A racketeering indictment stemming from a two-year F.B.I. investigation accused the treasurer, Robert Vigil, and the former treasurer, Michael Montoya, both Democrats, of receiving the illegal payments from investment advisers.
One would think that successfully prosecuting corruption cases against two high profile Democratic office holders would elicit praise and the eternal gratitude of Iglesias' fellow Republicans. But as Andy Lenderman, of the "New Mexican," points out, things don't always work out the way you think they will. For some, Iglesias' inability to max out the case was viewed as a defeat.
"If you're a corrupt politician, you're going to do hard federal time. -- U.S. ATTORNEY DAVID IGLESIAS
ALBUQUERQUE -- In the end, Robert Vigil's family surrounded the former state treasurer and protected him from the news cameras as he left the federal courthouse late Wednesday afternoon.
Moments earlier the Ribera native received a 37-month prison sentence and a fine of nearly $100,000 for his conviction on one count of attempted extortion, which related to his pressuring a contractor to give a job to the wife of a political friend.
U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said the sentencing sends a clear message: "If you're a corrupt politician, you're going to do hard federal time."
Lawyers from both sides may still appeal the sentence or the case. Prosecutors objected that it was too low, and Vigil's defense team may appeal the case to a higher court.
Vigil's sentencing capped the largest part of a massive white collar crime case. Prosecutors said Vigil was part of a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme where Vigil and his predecessor, Michael Montoya, demanded kickbacks in exchange for sending state investment business to private financial advisers.
The debate -- led by Browning -- was an exhaustive lesson in federal sentencing procedure.
"It would not be reasonable to punish Mr. Vigil with the same sentence if the jury had convicted him on 23 counts," Browning said.
The prosecution of the State Treasurer(s) was used, ironically, by both sides in the 2006 House seat race between Patricia Madrid and Heather Wilson.
In the daily tit-for-tat, Madrid accuses Wilson of ignoring important questions leading up to the war in Iraq and being a rubber stamp for the Bush administration.
Her supporters call(ed) her the best candidate to face Wilson since the representative's first election in 1998.
In return, Wilson, who many say is in the political fight of her life, accuses Madrid of ignoring corruption in the state despite her being the top law enforcement official there.
There are other considerations in the Iglesias dismissal that need to be considered.
Cases under investigation by Iglesias' Office:
From the Albuquerque Tribune ...
Rumors have also swirled for months about an investigation into corruption involving major public construction projects in Bernalillo County including the state District Courthouse and Metro Courthouse.
An FBI spokesman confirmed in October that an investigation had been forwarded to Iglesias' office - although he declined to specify details. Since then indictments have regularly been expected and then delayed.
Or perhaps Iglesias' strong stand on immigration led to his undoing.
Running contrary to Bush administration policy, Iglesias wrote an editorial for The Washington Times (2/17/06) in support of the House Bill on Immigration Reform, specifically citing the need to crack down on the smugglers who traffic in illegal immigrants while displaying concern for the immigrants themselves: "Our existing alien smuggling laws are inadequate, outdated and unnecessarily complicated."
The bill passed by the House would address these gaps and would give federal prosecutors on the southwest border many desperately needed tools to take down smuggling rings and obtain justice for the victims. In particular, the bill strengthens the penalties for alien smugglers, especially those who put immigrants at risk of death or serious bodily injury. It extends the arm of the law to better reach foreign alien smuggling rings and those who help illegal aliens to cross our borders. The legislation would also impose new penalties for organized passport and immigration fraud and makes it a federal crime to defraud immigrants. These important changes will provide prosecutors additional tools to prosecute every person involved in smuggling an alien into the country or defrauding immigrants.
As more information comes to light, the rationale behind Iglesias' dismissal might finally be uncovered. The key might end up not to be anything Iglesias did -- but rather who is chosen to be his successor -- and why.
Who will be Iglesias Replacement?
Iglesias has recently announced his last day will be February 28th, 2007 and who will be replacing him? Will President Bush review the names submitted by the New Mexico Congressional delegation, or will we see another Gonzales appointment?
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici said, "It is my pleasure to recommend four individuals that I believe would serve New Mexico and the nation with distinction as U.S. Attorney for our state. I am familiar with each of them, and I believe that they have the necessary legal backgrounds and right temperaments for the job. I look forward to President Bush's choice."
All four mentioned by Domenici are lawyers: Jim Bibb, Glenn Ellington, Charles Peifer and Pat Rogers.
The names are familiar to many in New Mexico political and legal circles.
Bibb, of Santa Fe, ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for state attorney general last fall against Gary King and has been an assistant U.S. attorney in the past.
Ellington, 45, also of Santa Fe, is a former state Taxation and Revenue Department secretary in private practice with Ellington & Ellington LLC. He's also a former state appellate and district judge.
Peifer has been in private practice for 16 years with Peifer, Hanson and Mullins, and has served as chief assistant attorney general. He said he's honored to be considered.
Rogers, 51, of Albuquerque, is a longtime attorney with Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris and Sisk and has served as chief counsel to the state Republican Party.
ePluribus Media Contributors: Avahome, kfred, standingup, JeninRI, cho, roxy, wanderindiana, GreyHawk, biblio