Española City Councilor John Ramon Vigil is charged with three counts of felony bribery and a misdemeanor count of refusing to aid an officer in connection with a Fairview man trying to garner favors from Vigil over a condemned house on North McCurdy Road.
An Española Police Department investigation into the March 21 stabbing of Jacob Smith, brought Det. Ernest Saucedo to have possession of Phillip Chacon’s cell phone, interim police chief Roger Jimenez said Tuesday. Chacon is charged in the stabbing and Saucedo had his phone after taking it from him at his Fairview Lane residence, following a standoff with police.
When Saucedo attempted to serve a search warrant for Vigil's phone on May 19 at his home on the West Side, the councilor initially refused to come out of his home, and called Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan for help, lapel video recorded at the scene shows.
"Why was the sheriff here?" Det. Zack Wright asks as he and Saucedo drive away from the home, phone in hand.
"I don't know," Saucedo replies.
Vigil did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In an interview Tuesday, Vigil’s Albuquerque-based attorney Robert Gorence said the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office refused to authorize a search warrant for his client’s phone because there was no substantiated allegation of any criminal conduct.
“I will be shocked if another district attorney anywhere in the state picks this up,” Gorence said.
Jimenez said the information in Chacon's phone, which implicates Vigil, was found legally.
“It’s fair game to see if there’s any more evidentiary information in the phone,” he said.
The criminal complaint lays out Saucedo’s review of texts and Facebook Messenger communications between Vigil and Chacon. In one of the communications Chacon is alleged to have offered Vigil and fellow City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez $25,000 “if you guys get rid of (City Planning and Zoning Director) Richard (Hubler).”
Chacon, a former candidate for City Council, is also alleged to have sent Vigil information regarding, “other investigations pertaining to violent batteries Mr. Chacon has been involved in,” the complaint states.
Vigil also tried to communicate with Chacon regarding the Smith stabbing but Chacon said he did not know anything, that he had been in Santa Fe.
Saucedo also found communications between the two regarding the property at 2227 N. McCurdy Road. Chacon was allegedly trying to buy the property, but the city government wanted to demolish the building under the “Clean and Lien” program.
Vigil is alleged to have been texting Chacon during the Feb. 25 City Council meeting giving him advice on how to navigate the demolition process.
Gorence said Tuesday that the allegations of public corruption and bribery are ludicrous on their face.
“One, Mr. Vigil has never had a business relationship with Mr. Chacon,” he said. “Two, he has never received any money from Mr. Chacon.”
He also said Vigil was out of the state on a business trip for the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative during the meeting, and did not vote nor present anything on Chacon’s behalf.
“He is informing him as he would for any constituent, what you have to do to get a matter before the City Council,” Gorence said. “That’s what elected city officials do. Period.”
Mayor Javier Sanchez said Tuesday the charges were troubling.
“I’m certainly troubled and concerned if the allegations are true,” he said. “One of the reasons I ran for mayor and why people voted for me was because I wanted change to a new bold way of doing things. This is concerning.”
Sanchez acknowledged the charges needed to be followed up and there is no formal way to remove Vigil from office.
Saucedo interviewed Vigil April 22 as a witness. Saucedo told Vigil he had learned of Vigil’s and Chacon’s communications and Saucedo wanted to know what criminal information the two had shared.
Saucedo wrote in the complaint he asked Vigil if he had received pictures from Chacon of victims of batteries and Vigil said he received “random stuff including pictures from Mr. Chacon that he would never view.” Vigil told Saucedo he believed Chacon had a mental disorder.
In the complaint Vigil denies receiving pictures of drugs, drug paraphernalia, or pornography. He acknowledged receiving a picture of a girl lying on a couch but the complaint is not clear whether it was pornographic or the age of the girl.
Gorence said Tuesday there is no evidence nor any possibility that Vigil knew that the women in the photos were alleged victims of a violent assault.
After asking those questions, Saucedo told Vigil he was asking them because he already knew the answers and “had evidence to support all the questions that I was asking.” Saucedo told Vigil that his deceitfulness and attempt to elude the questions could turn him into a suspect, instead of a witness.
Saucedo instructed Vigil that Vigil was privy to criminal information and that he should have disclosed it to law enforcement. His lack of disclosure could get him charged with conspiracy, Saucedo states in the complaint.
“(Vigil) also did not feel comfortable bringing information to the Police Department because his belief was that it would not be handled appropriately,” Saucedo wrote.
Saucedo then went through several criminal actions Chacon is alleged to have committed including a battery on Chris Marquez, a neighbor, and burning City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez’s campaign signs. Vigil said Marquez, the victim, should report the crime, not he and that everyone’s signs get vandalized, including his, “but he never cried wolf.”
Jimenez said Tuesday after Saucedo’s review of Chacon’s cell phone, Chacon could be facing more charges.
“We’ve not spoken to Mr. Chacon,” he said. “He could be charged with other crimes. I think he’s already facing three or four separate charges.”
Vigil stopped the interview when Saucedo asked him if he had received videos from Chacon containing prostitution solicitation. Vigil said he did receive videos in his junk mail but never viewed them. He then said he did not want to proceed with the interview without a lawyer.
Saucedo told Vigil to have his lawyer contact him so they could continue the interview.
Over the next week Saucedo continued the investigation, and summarized the conversations between Vigil and Chacon. The complaint states when Chacon offered Vigil the $25,000 to get rid of Hubler, Vigil responded by saying, “I’ll call the CM (City Manager).”
Jimenez said Vigil’s statement implicates him in conspiracy. Although Vigil’s answer could be interpreted to mean different things, Jimenez said the lack of pushback on Vigil’s part was not good.
“It’s concerning,” he said. “In order for a crime to occur, he (Vigil) has to acknowledge it. There’s nothing saying, ‘I can’t do that.’ It’s more like, ‘I’ll take care of it.’”
Saucedo also found that Chacon had shared with Vigil pornographic pictures and videos. Chacon also bragged to Vigil he had beaten several people so badly they were hospitalized and provided pictures.
During the Feb. 25 Council meeting, Vigil is alleged to have coached Chacon to prevent a property he wanted to purchase from demolition.
“Mention you have a buyer’s contract,” Vigil texted to Chacon. “Make sure you mention that.”
Chacon did not and still does not have a buyer’s contract on the property, Hubler said in an April interview. It was the only property spared demolition that night. Three other properties were set to be bulldozed.
Sanchez said he was especially concerned with that text conversation. It undermines the council’s authority and the decision-making process.
Saucedo waited 14 days to hear back from Vigil or his lawyer. Not hearing from them, Saucedo chose to file charges in Magistrate Court. Vigil is charged with two different felony counts of conspiracy. The first is to perform a public duty otherwise, the second is to be more favorable. The third felony charge is unlawful interest in a public contract. The misdemeanor is refusing to aid an officer.
Sanchez said Tuesday Vigil’s representation of his constituents was questionable.
“If they’re (the charges) near truthful, it’s not good representation for Española, especially when we’re trying really hard to move forward,” he said.
Jimenez said Vigil will attend a hearing where he will plead guilty or not guilty and the case will bound over to District Court.
“Everybody is innocent until proved guilty,” Jimenez said.
SUN Staff Writer Jennifer Carr contributed reporting to this story