A May 22 Style article about former U.S. attorney David C. Iglesias incorrectly said that Tom Cruise played a prosecutor in the movie "A Few Good Men." Cruise's character was a defense attorney.
The Next Best Path
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
At 9 a.m. on the very edge of the dusty, desolate collection of adobe homes and Vietnamese restaurants that seem to form this city, David Iglesias begins his run through the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. This is not easy terrain. The footing is terribly uneven. The altitude can be unbearable. At certain times one can hear the grumbling of mountain lions and the feasting of coyotes.
But here in the thin air and the narrow, rocky paths is where the 49-year-old Iglesias says he finds mental and moral clarity. Lord knows he could use it. In the past few months, events have forced Iglesias to question the very nature of loyalty and his own beliefs. Once he was a man whose belief in the integrity of the Republican Party earned him a political plum. Now he is a pariah.
As one of nine U.S. attorneys forced from their posts by the Bush administration, Iglesias is at the center of a scandal that's led to congressional hearings and the resignations of four top Justice Department officials. And though he's been temporarily relegated to chauffeur for his four daughters, he's also managed to transform himself from fired public servant into a fairly noisy poster boy for good government. During congressional hearings in March, Iglesias testified he resisted when two of the state's highest elected officials "leaned on" him to speed up an indictment of Democrats. More recently, when sitting down with Bill Maher on his HBO show, Iglesias quipped, "I took an oath to support and defend the constitution, not the Republican Party of New Mexico."
Maher was just one stop on the Iglesias media tour. In embracing the collective lens, Iglesias racked up televised appearances with, among others, Chris Matthews, Larry King, Katie Couric, Tim Russert and Chris Wallace. Strong-jawed and clean-shaven, said to have inspired the dreamy prosecutor played by Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men," a White House Fellow during the Clinton administration, he's become both the handsome, charismatic public face for the sacked attorneys and a genuine media star. And damn if he hasn't enjoyed it.
"I've loved it," he says. "It's a good fit. It feels really natural. I'll tell you what, from an exposure point of view it's been incredible. Had I stayed a U.S. attorney and not gotten forced to resign, no one would know who I was outside of New Mexico. In a perverse way this has already put me on the national map. My own test is: If it's a show I've heard of, I'll probably do it."
Iglesias was just as eager when he took the U.S. attorney job in 2001. As a well-known Republican who narrowly lost the race for the state's attorney general post in 1998, he promised to give his job "my blood, my sweat and my tears." And for five years he appears to have done just that. Pursuing immigration and corruption cases, he earned positive evaluations from the Justice Department for his work.
In January of 2006, he received a letter commending him for "exemplary leadership in the department's priority programs." It was signed by Michael A. Battle, head of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys.
The political pressure kicked in last fall. That was when Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), locked in a heated reelection bid with state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, called Iglesias to ask about sealed indictments involving corruption charges against Democratic officials. Iglesias's onetime political rabbi, Sen. Pete V. Domenici, followed up with a similar call to Iglesias at his home, in which Iglesias says Domenici expressed displeasure that Iglesias wouldn't be filing charges before November (and, hint, the elections).
Around the same time Iglesias had lunch with Patrick Rogers, a lawyer in private practice with strong ties to the state's Republican Party. Iglesias says he arranged the lunch -- also attended by his executive assistant -- because he was aware of Rogers's complaints about his office and now wanted to clear the air.
"I wanted him off my back," says Iglesias.