SILVER CITY, N.M. — A southwestern New Mexico district attorney who was facing calls to resign following a suspected DWI traffic stop is being accused by the state’s top prosecutor of misusing her position as a public official.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office on Thursday filed charges against Francesca Martinez-Estevez, whose district includes Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.
Martinez-Estevez is facing five misdemeanor counts that include reckless driving, using government property for unauthorized uses and using the powers and resources of public office to obtain personal benefits.
A criminal complaint filed in state district court states that Martinez-Estevez is bound by the duties of her position as the highest ranking official in the district attorney’s office as well as the state Governmental Conduct Act.
“Ms. Estevez is required to uphold the law, act in the best interest of justice and maintain the high ethical and moral standards of her office,” the complaint states.
The charges stem from a June 2016 traffic stop near Silver City and subsequent fallout.
Martinez-Estevez was stopped on a Saturday after her state-issued Dodge Charger was spotted swerving and speeding. The vehicle crossed the yellow center line about 10 times during a five-minute period.
Lapel video captured one local officer describing Martinez-Estevez as “loaded,” but police did not give her a field sobriety test or a citation during the traffic stop.
The video of the traffic stop also showed her stumbling during her conversation with officers and giving herself a practice sobriety test and losing her balance walking heel to toe in a straight line. Silver City police reports describe her as having slurred speech and difficulty handling her iPhone.
The officers also reported apparent damage to the front passenger side of the vehicle, where the tire was gashed and fresh grass was embedded in the bumper.
Martinez-Estevez did not respond Thursday to a request seeking comment on the allegations outlined in the complaint. Her attorney, Jim Foy, has said previously that the investigation into the traffic stop amounted to political grandstanding.
State Sen. Howie Morales had called for Martinez-Estevez’s resignation after the suspected DWI stop and asked the attorney general to investigate. In January, state agents raided the district attorney’s office and seized documents and the state vehicle driven by Martinez-Estevez as part of their inquiry.
The complaint states that vehicle inspection and mileage records were missing.
According to the complaint, officers who were at the traffic stop also felt intimidated by statements made by the district attorney at the time and in phone calls and other later interactions.
The district attorney also was accused of making repeated, untrue claims that one of the officers who had stopped her that day was racist.
After the traffic stop, the complaint states that Martinez-Estevez abused her authority to make inquiries about the qualifications of Morales’ brother, who worked as a state parole officer. The complaint alleges that she unsuccessfully sought his resume and intimidated another probation and parole officer.