This was one of the cases that former U.S. Attorney David "I'm not in my officer right now, please leave a message" Iglesias was sitting on two years ago. This was one of the performance issues stupidly referred to by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. This is one of the cases that didn't get moving until after Iglesias was sent packing... but we digress.
The patron system in New Mexico certainly lost a power player in yesterdays proceedings. Federal attorneys contend that the conviction sends a strong message to public officials who might be lining their pockets with public money. However, the deterrent effect is somewhat lessened by the fact that this case fell into the Fed's lap and without a civil court case where two contractors were fighting over company assets, Manny and company would have gotten away clean.
(Sidebar)We have a dismal record prosecuting public corruption cases in New Mexico primarily because government has been dominated by one party for over 80 years. The pressure on elected officials to "go along to get along" is enormous. Particularly when they run in the same circles and count on each other's support to keep their jobs. Even honest officials don't want to cross someone as powerful as the former Senate Pro Tem was at the height of his power.
A note to Kari Brandenburg... This is how you plea bargain. The U.S. Attorney brought down Aragon's house of cards by flipping defendant after defendant. Unlike your "deal with the devil" the pleas entered into by the U.S. Attorney included agreements to testify against Aragon. Meanwhile two potentially innocent men sit in prison accused of killing Pak and Pung Yi. If you believe the two were involved your deal with Bloomfield should have included testimony.
The fact is that although the Era of Manny is over, the fastest way to clean up the system is to wash out the players who use their political power for everything from the petty to the profitable. We can't count on the Feds to get lucky and we can't expect elected officials who play on the same team to prosecute their teammates. And so... the Patron System lives on.