Defendant once carried out firing of AG prosecutor
Posted 8/21/2009 03:41:00 PM
Attorneys for the defendants are set to argue that AG King’s office has a conflict and should be removed from the case
One of two assistant attorney generals prosecuting the case against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and three others was once fired by one of the defendants in the case, former AG employee Elizabeth Kupfer.
The fact that a prosecutor on the case is charged with trying to secure a conviction against a woman who carried out his firing is one of the main points defense attorneys plan to cite in arguing that current AG Gary King’s office has no business prosecuting the case.
Kupfer’s attorney, Hank Farrah, confirmed in an interview that Kupfer carried out the firing of Assistant Attorney General Chris Lackmann sometime during the administration of former AG Patricia Madrid, who ordered the firing. Farrah would not reveal other details.
During Madrid’s administration -- and the time of the alleged crimes -- Kupfer was the administrative services director in the AG’s office.
Lackmann was rehired sometime after King took office in 2007, and is now assigned to prosecute the case along with Assistant Attorney General Ann Badway.
Vigil-Giron, Kupfer and the others under indictment -- lobbyist Joseph Kupfer, who is Elizabeth’s husband, and media consultant Armando Gutierrez -- each face 50 counts including money laundering, fraud, soliciting or receiving kickbacks and tax evasion. They’re accused of bilking taxpayers out of millions of dollars between 2004 and 2006 by falsifying invoices to the secretary of state’s office.
“My client used to work at the AG’s office and she knows the people involved,” Farrah said when asked to explain why he believes the AG’s office has a conflict. Later, after being asked, he confirmed that Elizabeth Kupfer carried out the firing of Lackmann.
If King’s office is taken off the case, it would likely be taken over by a district attorney’s office.
Defense attorney says AG has ‘numerous conflicts’
Miles Hanisee, Gutierrez’s attorney, said the AG’s office has numerous conflicts that should prevent it from prosecuting the case. Gutierrez, he said, once had a contract with the AG’s office and “worked closely with persons employed at high levels in the AG’s office.” Hanisee also said the contract between the secretary of state’s office and Gutierrez that’s at the center of the AG’s criminal case was “approved by the AG’s office” and “used a template form that is repeatedly used in the AG’s office.”
Those are some of “the number of pervasive conflicts that impair the attorney general’s ability to make prosecuting decisions and, even more troubling, impair our ability to call witnesses to give unbiased testimony, because those witnesses now answer to Attorney General King,” Hanisee said.
Phil Sisneros, the AG’s spokesman, said he could not comment.
“In order to ensure a fair hearing on all of the evidence, we have to remain sure that anything we say won’t prejudice the case in any way, and therefore we prefer to do all of our talking at trial,” Sisneros said.
Madrid could not immediately be reached for comment.