Prosecution and defense urge court to accept plea deal for embezzler
July 23—Prosecutors and defense attorneys urge State District Judge Jason Lidyard to accept the third plea they plan to offer Henrietta Trujillo, a former Northern New Mexico College official who admitted to having embezzled more than $80,000 from the school about a decade ago.
Trujillo, the college’s former director of financial services, is facing one count of embezzlement over $20,000 and is accused of stealing cash and checks meant to be deposited in college bank accounts during 2 and a half years between 2012 and 2014.
Lidyard rejected two proposed plea deals accepted by the defense and prosecutors since 2019 as being too lenient, saying Trujillo’s sentence should be on par with the sentences given to other defendants convicted of theft involving sums of money. similar money.
These, he noted in a 2020 hearing, often include prison sentences and do not easily plead probation and restitution.
Lawyers, however, seem reluctant to put the 66-year-old Corrales woman behind bars.
The two previous plea deals would have allowed Trujillo to serve probation and/or electronic monitoring or house arrest.
Although the latest proposed plea has not been made public in full, recent queries in the case indicate that it would also not include jail time.
This is because Trujillo’s health is precarious, his lawyer Ben Ortega said on Friday.
“Some people can go to jail or go to jail and they’ll be fine,” he said. “Henrietta Trujillo is crippled. The smallest thing that happens to her could have disastrous consequences for her. I don’t want going to prison to become a death sentence for her health.”
Trujillo has hip and knee issues that will require surgery, suffers from anxiety that has caused her to be hospitalized in the past, and is the sole caregiver for her husband who has a lung condition, court records show. .
Ortega said the latest plea contained a longer period of confinement than that rejected by Lidyard in July 2020, calling on Trujillo to spend at least a year and possibly two under house arrest and/or electronic monitoring, up from 90 to 182 days as presented under the previous advocacy proposal.
Whether Trujillo would be allowed to work while serving his sentence would be up to the judge, Ortega said.
The defense attorney argued in a recent motion that house arrest is technically incarceration, and Trujillo’s age and health make her unlikely to reoffend.
Settling the case before trial would also save court resources and allow Trujillo to direct money she might spend on legal fees towards paying restitution of about $86,000, of which about $4,000 $, Ortega said, would go to the State Department of Taxes and Revenue. cover the costs of its investigation.
Northern New Mexico College acting president Barbara Medina said Friday that the school had been made aware of the proposed plea and agreed with the proposed restitution terms, but had no position on whether Trujillo was to be incarcerated as part of the plea.
“My opinion and that of the Board of Regents in conversation with legal counsel is that we wanted to move forward,” she said on Friday. “Our most important consideration was our ability to move forward.”
What’s also different about the plea, Ortega said on Friday, is that it includes a forensic psychologist’s report that offers new details about what prompted Trujillo to take the money, his likelihood of recurrence and responsiveness to treatment.
“Both her sister and her mother needed Ms. Trujillo’s financial assistance,” the report said. Earlier reports indicate that they both had cancer. Her pregnant daughter also needed help, the report said.
“Ms. Trujillo was falling behind on her mortgage payments,” he says. “The family’s automobiles were breaking down. Ms. Trujillo also owed federal income taxes because she had cashed in her pension from her former employer, Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
The report says “her guilt, shame and remorse” indicate she is unlikely to re-offend and would be amenable to treatment in the form of counselling.
“Given Ms. Trujillo’s age, her conventional and prosocial moral behavior throughout her life, and her underlying anxiety and depression, incarceration will create powerful stress on her strained capacity for hope and result in serious and long-term negative psychological damage,” the report concludes.
Ortega said he wrote the motion and memorandum in support of approving the plea deal — which the district attorney’s office also stipulated — because at the last hearing he didn’t. was unable to present its full argument before Lidyard moved to dismiss the plea. Ortega said he wanted to be able to make his opinion known.
Earlier this month, Assistant District Attorney Douglas Wood III also urged the judge to accept the new plea, noting that it requires 384 hours of community service not required by the previous agreement.
The plea is appropriate, Wood argued, because it takes into account not only Trujillo’s breach of public trust, but also the non-violent nature of the crime and his lack of a criminal history.
“Ms. Trujillo made some very poor decisions about how to deal with her ongoing family and financial problems and gambling addiction, but the portrait presented to the Court is not that of an individual seeking to act maliciously, but rather that of an individual who, like many drug addicts, unfortunately, convinced herself that she could work her way out of these problems on her own,” Wood wrote in a court filing.
Trujillo denied having a gambling problem, although police verified that she had spent more than $500,000 at area casinos during the approximately 10-year period she worked for the college based in Española, according to previous reports.
Wood and Ortega filed for a hearing in the case on June 22. The court had not set a hearing date for Friday, but Ortega said the court had requested a copy of the report from the psychologist mentioned in his motion.
Jake Arnold, executive director of NNMC advocacy group Sociedad Venceslao Jaramillo, named after the college’s founder, said Friday that after hearing Lidyard’s comments in previous hearings, he was not sure the judge would accept the advocacy.
Arnold said his recommendation would be that Trujillo serve six months in prison.
“Jail time and assured restitution, those are the two things that have to be in any kind of plea deal, I think,” he said.