ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The corruption case against the former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Girón collapsed Wednesday when a district judge ruled the state had taken too long in bringing the charges to trial.
Vigil-Girón was accused of embezzling federal funds and other crimes related to $6 million in contracts that paid for voter-education commercials in 2006.
District Judge Reed Sheppard decided there were just too many delays and that violated Vigil-Girón's right to a speedy trial.
Vigil-Girón's attorney, Robert Gorence, says his client was ecstatic and believes she has been vindicated.
A close read of the order reveals the case against her was a disaster from the beginning as eight judges were assigned the case after Vigil-Girón was indicted more than three years ago. Six of them were recused.
One of those judges was former District Judge Pat Murdoch, who retired after his own personal scandal. Then it took 18 months for the courts to decide to disqualify Attorney General Gary King's office from prosecuting the case because there were concerns about a conflict of interest.
It was then four months before a special prosecutor was assigned.
Special prosecutor Joseph Campbell said two days after he got the case is when Murdoch retired, and there have been three judges since that time. Campbell said there has been no delay by him or his staff.
Earlier this month one of Vigil-Girón's key witnesses died, and last month she testified she was suffering "extreme stress" because the court process was taking so long it was affecting her ability to find a job.
In his order Sheppard acknowledged that even though some of the delays were due to the criminal justice system itself, it ultimately "weighs against the state."
Special prosecutor Bill Campbell says he still has the option to appeal the dismissal of charges and that could happen as early as next week.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying they were disappointed there was "not an opportunity to present the evidence to a jury."
Two lobbyists, Joseph and Elizabeth Kupfer, and Armando Gutierrez, the president of the company hired to produce the commercials, were indicted on the same charges Vigil-Girón faced. Dismissal of the charges against her does not affect their cases.
Vigil-Girón's attorney said she is currently out of state on court-approved leave and that she plans on returning to public service.
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