Keith Gardner is Governor Susana Martinez’s chief of staff which makes him one of the most powerful men in New Mexico.
Gardner is most famous for a secret audio recording made by Brian Powell, the father of a young girl emotionally and sexually victimized by a 47-year-old Roswell school teacher. Powell made the recording because he feared Gardner might tamper with the criminal prosecution of the teacher. His fear appears to be justified based upon the Gardner’s own words and news articles reporting on the criminal trial.
In the same recording, Gardner admits to concealing his communications from the public because his actions could land him in jail if made public He basically admits to criminal wrongdoing.
Before the recording was made, Gardner publicly accused a woman, former Secretary of the Department of Corrections, of lying after she stated in a written affidavit that Gardner directed cabinet level secretaries to conceal their communications from the public as well.
The recording exposes Gardner to be a liar with his own words.
Gardner’s criminal conduct appears to include crimes against women, such as physically attacking a young woman in February 2012 in front of witnesses. The woman, Carrie Robin Menapace, is a policy analyst for Albuquerque Public Schools. Menapace reported the attack to Governor Martinez, the former prosecutor, who so far has done absolutely nothing:
“This letter is to inform you of a battery upon me by your Chief of Staff, Keith Gardner, during the closing days of the recent Legislative session. This last physical assault was the culmination of a series of escalating threatening encounters by Mr. Gardner over my work as a policy analyst and legislative liaison for Albuquerque Public Schools.”
“Mr. Gardner walked past me. He saw me and then turned back around to come up to me. My back was facing him at the time. Mr. Gardner grabbed my arm to turn me around. While painfully holding my arm and in an extremely threatening manner, he yelled that Winston should “be aware that the bowels of hell were about to open up upon him unless he stopped opposing the Governor’s bills.”
Gardner denied the incident although there were several witnesses to his actions. One witness, Tom Sullivan, said, “he damn well did it. He is a bully, and a liar, if he tries to say it didn’t happen.”
Sullivan also said Gardner behaved “disrespectfully and inappropriately and now he is trying to make himself into the victim”.
Gardner is no victim in this case, just as he was no victim in the audio recording. Former prosecutor Martinez can try to spin Gardner’s abusive conduct against a young woman as “he said she said” but he has already has been shown to have no credibility.
Ms. Menapace must have realized Gardner felt safe attacking a woman, as indicted in her letter to Martinez: (page 2)
“I am an idealistic young woman who believes in the political process and that the freedom of speech and ideas results in legislation that best serves our community. I hope that Mr. Gardner did not single me out for intimidation because of my youth and because I was female.”
Two other witnesses to Gardner’s continued threats against Ms. Menapace were Martinez “bad boys” Nate Gentry and David Doyle. According to Menapace, neither one of these “henchmen” did anything to try to stop Gardner from adding insult to injury.
Ms. Menapace even tried to resolve things with Gardner in a professional manner but he never bothered to respond to her attempts.
Gardner also targeted another young woman, Brian Powell’s teenage daughter, and apparently seems willing to destroy her life to suit his own purposes. This young woman was victimized by a 47 year old predator employed as a teacher. Yet despite the despicable actions of this man, Gardner appears to have intentionally campaigned to deny the victim justice and protect the perpetrator, all while looking her father, Powell, in the eyes telling him “I’m there for you”.
His “support” came as offers of high paying jobs that were contingent upon Powell moving his family out of Roswell. These offers could very well be viewed as an attempt to bribe Powell to move his family out of town.
Why would Gardner want the Powell family out of Roswell?
If a victim moves hundreds of miles away from the place of prosecution, the criminal case is much less likely to make it to trial. When regular contact with the victim dries up, the DA’s office has less access to information. As the saying goes, out of sight means out of mind.
Moving from the area increases the likelihood that the victim and her family can be convinced to “move on” with their lives by dropping the criminal case. Gardner seems to want that very much for the Powell family but not out of kindness or concern for their well-being.
Gardner can be heard on the recording admitting to having serious discussions with the District Attorney, Janetta Hicks, that centered around the difficulty of prosecuting this case. Gardner was not part of the case and had no business having these discussions with Hicks at all.
A “very close relative” of Gardner’s was a key witness in the case but had not been supoenaed. Gardner is heard saying that this key witness did not want to be part of the case although she was supposedly the victim’s best friend.
According to a news article on the trial, this key witness altered her testimony that made a conviction next to impossible. This key witness was afterward impeached with her own previous testimony, and then had to admit that her family, the Gardners, was very close to the predator’s family.
Gardner is also heard several times “preparing” Powell for the likelihood that the predator would be acquitted and go free.
Gardner even admits on the tape that he never pursued a situation in which his “close relative” was grabbed in a sexually inappropiate manner by a fellow student, because he wanted to keep his name out of the papers.
A man like Gardner who is willing to sabotage his own close relative, would have no qualms about sabotaging the life of another young woman for his own purposes.
Gardner’s boss, Governor Martinez has been strangely silent about the conduct of her own chief of staff possiblely tampering in a criminal case. As a former prosecuter, this is extremely damaging to the image she tries to project to the public about her concerns for victims.
Susana Martinez apparently does not care about abuses conducted by her own people. She has spent large financial resources to try to re-elect both Gentry and Doyle. But worst of all, Gardner still has his job as her chief of staff.