State Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, likely will get a seventh District Court judge to hear his drunken-driving case after prosecutors this week asked the current judge to recuse himself because of brief prior contact with the Northern New Mexico politician.
Martinez, 66, is accused of rear-ending a Jeep at an Española intersection on June 28. He was charged with aggravated DWI and reckless driving after refusing a breathalyzer and failing field sobriety tests, police said. The senator admitted to police that he had been drinking.
Judge Bryan Biedscheid of Santa Fe County — who was handed the case Aug. 22 after five other district court judges either voluntarily recused themselves or were excused — last week told attorneys for Martinez and the Attorney General’s Office he believed he could be “fair and impartial” in hearing the case, despite having prior “limited dealings” with the senator.
Biedscheid said he met with Martinez earlier this year, when he was seeking out advice from elected politicians about running for office.
“I met with him on the floor of the Senate for five minutes thinking later I’d be able to talk with him about guidance on connecting with voters,” Biedscheid told attorneys at the Sept. 5 hearing. “My initial assessment is I’m not biased for or against Mr. Martinez.”
Biedscheid told attorneys that if they believed he could not be impartial, they would have a week to request he recuse himself, adding he would grant the request.
In a Wednesday court filing, attorneys for the Attorney General’s Office did request that Biedschied recuse himself and asked that the case be reassigned to another First Judicial District judge.
“Your Honor candidly disclosed in open court to the parties your recent professional and social interactions with Defendant prior to being assigned this case,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Valencia wrote, adding “the State respectfully requests that Your Honor recuse.”
A new judge has not yet been assigned, according to online court filings.
Martinez told reporters after the Sept. 5 hearing that he would not step down from the Legislature if he were convicted, and that he would continue to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, asserting the case “is probably going to make me a better senator.”