Judge “embarrassed” when he signed plea agreements to send illegal immigrants to prison for 5 months

February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

In an interview for “Abused: The Postville Raid,” a documentary by filmmaker Luis Argueta about the workers’ plight, US District Court Judge Mark Bennett called the legal proceedings “a travesty,” and said he felt prosecutors pressured the workers into agreeing to 5-month prison stints for pleading guilty to single misdemeanor counts. The counts included using false ID documents to obtain employment, false use of a Social Security number or card, and unlawful entry into the US. “I thought their insisting on each of the defendants serving a 5-month sentence was a tragedy,” said Bennett, who sentenced 57 of the 389 illegal immigrants arrested in the May 2008 raid on the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville. Critics have contended that the workers were unfairly pressured into pleading guilty during mass hearings in the days after the raid. Immigrants arrested in other such raids across the country who have had criminal records were quickly deported, but those charged after the Postville raid served 5 months in prison before being sent home. Bennett said that prosecutors were out of line when they pushed the workers to sign the plea deals. “But it’s an executive branch decision, and I didn’t have the power to do anything about it other than not agree to the plea agreement,” Bennett said. “But if I did that, they would have been held in custody much longer. I found the plea agreement personally and professionally to be offensive, and I thought it was a travesty. And I was embarrassed to be a United States District Court judge that day. To have 57 people in a row that don’t even have a single misdemeanor among them is unheard of in federal court,” he told the filmmaker. “So if anybody deserved mercy and compassion and fairness and justice, these 57 did. And I don’t believe they received it, even though I was the one who imposed sentence, because my hands were tied by the Department of Justice in the case.” (Des Moines Register) See also https://immigrationlitigation.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/wherefore-plea-bargains/

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You are currently reading Judge “embarrassed” when he signed plea agreements to send illegal immigrants to prison for 5 months at Harlan York and Associates Immigration Lawyer Team 973.642.1111.

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