News Column

Susana Martinez Has No Plans to Join Email Lawsuit

July 7, 2014

By Thomas Cole, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

Susana Martinez has indicated she won't join a lawsuit over emails stolen from her campaign. (file photo)
Susana Martinez has indicated she won't join a lawsuit over emails stolen from her campaign. (file photo)

As Gov. Susana Martinez has repeatedly pointed out, the emails hijacked from her 2010 campaign website domain included undergarment orders and personal bank account statements.

Yet Martinez isn't among those who filed a lawsuit June 27 against state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman and others, alleging they conspired to steal the emails and invaded their privacy. Bregman called the case a "frivolous political circus."

Neither the Republican governor nor her advisers played a role in the filing of the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, and Martinez has no plans to join it as a plaintiff, according to Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell.

"The Governor is but one of many who had their privacy rights violated and those victims deserve to have their day in court," Knell wrote in an email.

The lawsuit was filed by two people who worked for Martinez's 2010 campaign and had email accounts through the campaign website domain, as well as two people who sent emails to individuals with campaign email accounts.

Mark Braden of Washington, D.C., one of the attorneys who brought the lawsuit, said last week that he hadn't discussed the litigation with the governor.

Asked whether he would be open to having Martinez as a plaintiff, Braden said, "I'm a lawyer in private practice. I don't normally turn away clients who show up on my doorstep."

Braden said he expects additional plaintiffs -- as well as more defendants -- to be added as the lawsuit moves forward.

The focus has been on plaintiffs who aren't public figures, but public figures like Martinez also have privacy rights, the lawyer said.

"Most certainly they are entitled to the same privacy rights as you and I," Braden said.

Two years ago, political opponents of Martinez began releasing emails from the governor's 2010 campaign website domain, insisting they had been lawfully obtained through a source.

Among other things, the emails showed members of the administration used campaign email accounts to discuss -- or at least try to discuss -- government business after Martinez took office in January 2011. The governor later ordered that public email accounts be used.

Martinez sought a federal investigation, and Jamie Estrada, who worked briefly as her campaign manager in 2009, was indicted last year on federal charges of illegally intercepting the emails.

"In politics, we should expect tough and vigorous debates on the issues. But it's disgusting to see operatives committing crimes and invading the privacy of their political opponents just to score cheap political points," Martinez wrote in a Facebook posting after Estrada's indictment.

"I stood up to criminals for 25 years as a prosecutor, I wasn't intimidated then and I won't be intimidated now," she added.

Estrada on June 16 pleaded guilty to two felony counts related to the hijacking of the emails. No one else has been charged in the case.

Pat Rogers -- an Albuquerque lawyer and lobbyist and member of the Republican National Committee -- was among the casualties of the disclosed emails.

A Rogers email, sent to Martinez aides, jokingly suggested the governor had dishonored George Armstrong Custer (killed by Indians at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876) by meeting with leaders of New Mexico tribes.

Rogers resigned in August 2012 as a shareholder from the prominent law firm of Modrall Sperling.

Braden is a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee and has previously done work for Republicans in New Mexico. He said he has long known Rogers. Another lawyer involved in the case, Angelo Artuso, formerly worked with Rogers at Modrall Sperling.

Braden said he and other lawyers in the case have discussed Rogers as an obvious potential plaintiff in the case, but he declined to say more. Rogers also declined to comment.

Braden said the lawsuit isn't about revenge.

"This is absolutely defending people's privacy rights," he said, adding that the theft of the emails was "outrageous and the people involved knew they were outrageous."

Braden, of the BakerHostetler law firm, wouldn't discuss how he ended up being hired for the lawsuit, but he said BakerHostetler is one of the nation's leading firms on the issues involved. Two other members of the firm, whose work focuses on privacy and data security, are listed as co-counsel.

In addition to Bregman, defendants in the lawsuit are Estrada, Albuquerque private investigator Michael Corwin, former Martinez campaign worker Anissa Galassini-Ford, and Jason Loera, who worked for a political committee that Bregman directed.

The lawsuit alleges they stole emails sent to the Martinez 2010 campaign website domain and used them to score political points, to attempt to embarrass individuals and/or to simply invade their privacy.

Corwin ran the anti-Martinez Independent Source PAC, which published and distributed some of the emails. He said he is innocent of any wrongdoing related to the allegations in the lawsuit.

Loera's attorney said he has been working to vindicate himself of allegations surrounding the emails. Loera is awaiting on trial on federal child pornography charges, which stem from materials found by federal agents investigating the email case.

The attorney for Galassini-Ford declined comment.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages authorized under federal wiretap and other communications law, as well as punitive financial damages and attorneys fees and costs.


For more stories covering politics, please see HispanicBusiness' Politics Channel



Source: (c)2014 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com Distributed by MCT Information Services


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