Skip to comments.Judge says Nelson need not testify in new Vigil trial
Posted on 09/05/2006 1:55:14 PM PDT by Rogle
By Associated Press
Posted 12:49 p.m.
A federal judge ruled today that a California investment adviser will not have to testify in the retrial of former state Treasurer Robert Vigil on public corruption charges.
U.S. District Judge James Browning said he would not compel Kent Nelson to testify after Nelson invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
However, Browning said he would admit into evidence transcripts of Nelson's testimony from Vigil's first trial, which ended in a mistrial this spring.
Vigil faces 24 federal extortion and racketeering counts in an alleged kickback scheme.
Nelson pleaded to a single count of mail fraud in the federal case.
Nelson's attorney informed prosecutors Friday that his client would not testify this time, citing his right against self-incrimination on criminal charges filed by state Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
Nelson faces 39 counts in state court, including bribery of a public employee, offering or paying illegal kickbacks, money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy in restraint of trade.
During Vigil's first trial, a key piece of government evidence was a videotape showing Nelson handing cash to Vigil - $10,000 in one instance. At the time, Nelson was cooperating with the FBI.
Vigil's lawyers have maintained that the money was a cash contribution to Vigil's campaign.
Three other men - Albuquerque businessman Angelo Garcia, former treasurer's employee Leo Sandoval and another former state treasurer, Michael Montoya - who testified in Vigil's first trial also have been indicted on state charges.
The state charges stem from criminal activity, such as soliciting and accepting kickbacks, that they testified about in the federal prosecution.
Vigil's retrial is expected to take five to six weeks.
Today's first day was the day for seating a jury. After lawyers for both sides agreed that publicity surrounding the case has been extraordinary, Browning agreed earlier this summer to expand the pool of potential jurors from 60 leading into the first trial to 120 this time around.
As with the first trial, jurors were summoned from all three federal court districts in New Mexico - a statewide draw aimed at ensuring 12 jurors can be seated who haven't formed an opinion about the case.
Browning denied a request last month by Vigil's defense team to move the trial outside the state because of the publicity. A Denver appeals court backed Browning's decision.
Vigil's case was reassigned to Browning over the summer. U.S. District Judge James Parker handled the first trial.
Madrid needs to go ASAP. She continues to dance around in a circle around the Vigil trial. Her ads attack Wilson on national issues, nothing about the state. Pathetic. I assume if Madrid loses, she'll get a very high-position state job, as usual here in NM :(