The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Local rancher's embezzlement trial set for July

 

November 10, 2019



PORTALES — Due to busy court schedules, and a witness list that’s likely to tax that schedule, a trial for a Roosevelt County rancher accused of embezzlement isn’t set to begin until July.

A pre-trial hearing was held Thursday morning at the Roosevelt County Courthouse in the case of Greg Smith, who faces a charge of racketeering and multiple counts of fraud, embezzlement, issuing a worthless check and attempt to evade tax in connection with his time leading the Miss New Mexico Scholarship Organization from 2015 to 2018.

An investigation from the state attorney general’s office alleges Smith overcharged and uncompensated pageant contestants and used embezzled funds to further his ranching business.

Both the prosecution and defense told District Judge Matt Chandler plenty of work is left before they’re prepared to go to trial, with Smith attorney Justine Fox-Young noting “voluminous discovery” is still owed to her by the prosecution. She didn’t anticipate being ready by the end of the year, particularly with the holidays coming and trials she has in those months.

Chandler said he could potentially reserve a one-week trial April 6-10, but would likely need to dip into July for a two-week setting.

Prosecutor Andrew Coffing didn’t see how he could fit the prosecution case in the April schedule.

“The state has … 41 factual witnesses,” Coffing said. “I think it’s safe to schedule for a two-week trial period.”

Fox-Young said she has a trial she is anticipating would be done April 3, but she couldn’t give the court a guarantee.

Chandler, assigned the case after Portales-based District Judge Donna Mowrer recused herself, said he’d look at what time would be available at Mowrer’s courtroom.

“I’m not only trying to work with my calendar, but her calendar as well and the parties’ calendars,” said Chandler, who set a March 6 pre-trial conference.

Fox-Young asked the court to relax the conditions of release for Smith, which requires him to file with the court on any out-of-state travel. She said the requirements are onerous given his frequent travel for his ranching business.

“He’s not a flight risk, and he’s in regular contact with us,” Fox-Young said. “This is a white-collar crime with no threats.”

Coffing noted the conditions were set in place because a witness in Texas feared retaliation, and, “as far as I can tell, that condition still hasn’t been lifted.”

Fox-Young said a reasonable order was that Smith simply not visit Texas Tech University, where the witness is attending college. Chandler said he would keep the current conditions in place, but that Fox-Young could file a written motion to change the conditions of release.

 
 

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