SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico — A former mayoral candidate in a New Mexico border city has pleaded guilty to extortion for secretly recording an opponent receiving a lap dance from a topless woman, ending another bizarre chapter in the troubled town's history.
Daniel Salinas of Sunland Park accepted a plea agreement this week and admitted to felony extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion against Gerardo Hernandez, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported (http://goo.gl/YXAzJ5)
In 2012, Sunland Park drew national attention after Salinas secretly recorded Hernandez receiving the lap dance in his campaign office. Police say Salinas and his allies threatened to release the video to the public unless Hernandez withdrew his candidacy for mayor.
Hernandez declined to renounce his candidacy, but Salinas won election as Sunland Park's mayor in March 2012.
The arrests of Salinas and others connected to a voter fraud investigation put the border city in turmoil, and Salinas was never sworn into office or served a day as mayor.
"I'm trying hard to get my life back together," Salinas said in a brief statement in court. "I want to take responsibility for my actions. I took the wrong choice."
Ultimately 33 counts were brought against Salinas. But the plea agreement approved Wednesday by Kugler includes the dismissal of the 31 remaining allegations and three cases pending against Salinas.
Salinas, 31, was pleased with the deal, said one of his attorneys, Joe Spencer.
"Mr. Salinas did not give birth to this idea (of extortion). Someone else in his camp did," Spencer said. "He should have turned away, and he didn't. He accepts responsibility for that."
State District Judge Darren Kugler gave Salinas a three-year deferred sentence with supervised probation, and 100 hours of community service.
The year before the extortion case, former Mayor Martin Resendiz said he was drunk when he signed nine contracts with a California company for $1 million.
Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com