Longtime state Sen. Richard Martinez, an Española Democrat, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of aggravated DWI and reckless driving following his arrest Friday night in Española after a collision, court records show.
Martinez’s attorney, David Foster, entered the plea in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court, according to a court document filed Monday. Martinez, 66, did not appear at his arraignment.
Santa Fe County Magistrate David Segura is hearing the case following the recusals of two Rio Arriba County magistrates, Judges Joseph Madrid and Alexandra Naranjo, and Los Alamos County Magistrate Pat Casados, according to court records.
On Tuesday, District Attorney Marco Serna recused himself from prosecuting the case. Martinez had endorsed Serna, who has family in Española, in his race for district attorney in 2016. Rather than seek reelection in 2020, Serna is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján.
“To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and just as all Rio Arriba and Los Alamos judges have done, the District Attorney is conflicting the case out to another district attorney,” Serna’s spokesman, James Hallinan, said in an email.
A judge ordered Martinez’s release from jail on the condition that he not possess or consume alcohol or enter any establishments that sell liquor, says a document dated Saturday.
Martinez is accused of driving his 2010 Mercedes SUV, bearing the license plate SEN-05, while intoxicated and rear-ending a Jeep that was stopped at a red light on the north side of Española around 10:20 p.m. Friday.
Martinez and the two people in the Jeep, a man and woman in their 50s, were all hospitalized after the crash.
The senator — who refused to take a Breathalyzer test and pleaded with officers not to arrest him, according to a police report of the incident — was arrested at Presbyterian Española Hospital where medical staff evaluated his injuries and treated him.
Police did not provide details about the injuries of the two people in the Jeep, but said they thought the injuries were not serious.
The pair did not respond to a message seeking comment on the collision.
A police report of the incident said the man, who was driving the Jeep, told officers at the scene he had been stopped at a red light and “heard the sound of tires screeching and saw a flash of light” before the impact.
The driver has holding his neck and told officers “he was going to throw up,” according to the police report.
Martinez has so far declined to comment on the case. His attorney also did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
The senator, who was elected to the seat in 2000 after serving 14 years as a Rio Arriba County magistrate, serves on several legislative committees, including the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee and the Criminal Justice Reform Committee. He would be up for reelection in 2020.
New Mexico Senate Democrats have been tepid in their response to Martinez’s arrest.
A statement issued Monday by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth expressed “concern for the well-being of everyone involved in the accident” and called Martinez “a valued member of our caucus” who was entitled to due process.
State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce has called for Martinez to resign immediately, however.
Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, declined to comment Tuesday on whether the governor believed Martinez should stay in office or resign, saying only that “no one is above the law.”
Video from an Española officer’s body camera at the scene of the crash — the intersection of Fairview Lane and Paseo de Oñate — shows the front end of Martinez’s white SUV was severely crumpled after the crash. The Jeep sustained “moderate damage,” a police report said.
The officer asked a paramedic examining Martinez in the SUV how the senator was doing, the video shows. The paramedic responded, “Good. I think he did pop his head.”
The officer then interviewed Martinez in his vehicle, saying he smelled alcohol on the senator’s breath. From behind a deployed air bag, Martinez said he had “a beer or two” before driving “from town,” the video shows. The senator later told an officer he had been driving back to Española from a meeting in Santa Fe.
Another officer at the scene can be heard in the video saying, “I’ll tell you this — he was driving way too fast, not wearing a seat belt.”
Referring to the pair whose vehicle was struck, the officer added: “These guys were smart, bought a Jeep.”
In an ambulance, Martinez repeatedly tried to perform a finger dexterity test and to count down from 31 to 14, at the request of Officer Dustin Chavez, according to a police report and video.
“I don’t know what you want me to do,” Martinez said.
Chavez later wrote in his report that Martinez had been unable to perform either field sobriety test. The report also indicated Martinez had bloodshot, watery eyes and slurred speech.
The officer asked Martinez how much he had to drink that night, and Martinez said, “Two or three” beers. Asked whether he’d had any liquor, Martinez smiled and said no, adding, “I’m trying to lose weight.”
“I actually had three glasses of wine,” Martinez said. “I didn’t have any beers.”
“Do you know how fast you were going?” the officer asked.
“I thought I was going like 40,” Martinez said. According to the report, the posted speed limit in the area is 45 mph.
A second video from Chavez’s body camera shows the officer arresting Martinez in his hospital room.
“Are you serious?” Martinez asked.
“Richard, I’m sorry,” the officer said.
Chavez asked Martinez whether he agreed to take a breath alcohol test.
Martinez said, “Are you serious? Jesus Christ.” He then refused to take the test.
“Are you really doing this to me?” Martinez asked the officer.
“We both have jobs to do, Richard,” the officer answered. “It’s, you know, one of those things. You’re a great person, you’ve always been there. …
“I’m glad you’re OK,” the officer added. “This could have been a lot worse.”
Speaking of the pair in the Jeep, the officer said, “Thank God they were fine.”
After his arrest, Martinez was briefly placed in a jail holding facility in Española, where he was charged and booked before being released. Police have not responded to questions about whether Martinez posted bail there or how much.
Martinez’s attorney has asked for a speedy jury trial, court records show. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 18.