Yet another delay in ‘Smiley’ Gallegos case
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By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
ALBUQUERQUE — Sometimes justice is delayed; sometimes justice is denied. And sometimes, as in the case of former , justice never seems to even get out of bed in the morning.
On Monday, a district court judge ordered yet another delay in the criminal case that alleges fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy involving money tied to the now defunct“Parties will exchange witness lists by the end of the year,” told attorneys for the prosecution and defense at the , telling them if they could not work out an agreement, a trial will be held by May 5.
For those keeping score at home, Monday’s delay means that absent a deal, since allegations were first made and will
“The state has tried at every opportunity to get this case to trial,” attorney told after Monday’s hearing. “Since the arraignment in the summer of 2009, we’ve asked for a trial setting, asked for a trial setting, asked for a trial setting and here we are.”
During Monday’s hearing, a frustrated Lackmann likened the four-plus years of delays in the case to a toddler that “has been hauled out of pre-K to kindergarten.”
“We’d like to have some resolution,” Lackmann said.
“The problem is, when you bring these highly complex cases into an over-burdened court system, the court system is just not equipped to handle it,” Gallegos attorney said afterwards. “I mean, there are serious violent offenses that get priority. There’s 2.300 guys sitting in jail who get priority. They all have to come first. That’s the problem.”
Gallegos, the housing authority director at the time, , along with co-defendants Robert Strumor, who was the authority’s bond counsel, and Dennis Kennedy, who was the authority’s accountant.
Allegedly, the housing authority misspent money on such things as private club memberships and alcohol with funds that were supposed to buy and renovate homes for low and moderate-income families.
heard by the grand jury back in 2009:
- Questions about a $300,000 loan the housing authority made to Gallegos.
- In sales of 40 properties, the money received from buyers did not go to pay off bonds.
- The authority withdrew bond money to purchase five properties it already owned.
- The authority withdrew $880,000 to purchase 16 properties, but paid just $280,00 for them,
- The authority allowed a state judge and an aide to then-, to live rent free in authority homes.
- Housing authority employees and a member of the board of directors purchased homes through the program even though they did not qualify.
The case was supposed to go to trial on Monday but was changed to a status hearing because defendant Kennedy is ill.
Kennedy’s attorney, , would only tell New Mexico Watchdog that Kennedy “has serious health issues.”
A former six-term state representative and in the 1980s and 1990s, Gallegos was . He also was a registered lobbyist at the Roundhouse. Under his watch, the housing authority it owed the state.
Gallegos, Strumor and Kennedy have been free on supervised released for the past four years.
Despite the seriousness of the charges, there have been , though Lackmann wouldn’t confirm that Monday.
“I think the safest thing for me to say is that upwards of 95 percent of all felony cases are resolved by plea bargains,” Lackmann said. “We have made plea offers to the defendants in this case. I do not want to affect negatively any discussions … I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into the details.”
Sanchez had Lackmann and defense attorneys huddle for 25 minutes on Monday behind closed doors but no resolution was reached, so the judge set the tentative May 5 trial date.
However, Sanchez urged the parties to try to reach an agreement and scheduled another status hearing for Dec. 9.
“Plan B is a trial,” Sanchez said from the bench.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Ben Lujan, Bernalillo County Courthouse, Chris Lackmann, Judge Ross C Sanchez, New Mexico Attorney General's office, New Mexico Watchdog, Regioni III Housing Authority, Sam Bregman, Vincent Smiley Gallegos