Judge D. Thomas Ferraro, 14 lawyers, BP Prosecutor Chris Lewis, Mexican Consulate representative, 2 interpreters, bailiff, security guards (a few), 5 federal marshals and a few other corrections officials
Observers: One GV Samaritan, the family of one defendant came in briefly and left with the lawyer—Kevin Leach.
68 defendants were on the list including 6 women. 23 were 1325—illegal entry—only. 45 people had both illegal entry and re-entry charges. 39 people were from Mexico, 17 from Guatemala, 4 from Honduras and 1 from El Salvador. 17 people were picked up near Naco, 15 near Sasabe, 13 near Douglas, 12 near Nogales and 4 near Lukeville. Countries of origin were not mentioned for the 7 cases dismissed or continued at the start of the proceedings.
The defendants entered the courtroom in groups of 7 and went directly to stand in front of the judge now that they are no longer shackled. 5 U.S. Marshals stood around them—the contrast between the very beefy marshals and the Mexicans and Central Americans finishing a long journey was marked—actually the contrast between the defendants and everyone else in the courtroom is marked. Of the first group of 7 men, 4 were dismissed and 3 were continued. I think one of the continued was Mr. Lerch’s client, Antolin Basurto Basurto 25364MP or José Muñoz Reyna 25310M,, who had some family members outside the courtroom but I did not hear the details of this group.
The remaining defendants entered 7 at a time in order of their position on the list. All of the 1325 group were given ‘time served’ which was usually the 2 or 3 days since they had been apprehended by the border patrol. Lawyers mentioned asylum and credible fear in two cases; Luis Felipe Avila Lopez 25343MP (lawyer Bert Vargas) from Honduras and Otilio Calmo Calmo 25374MP (lawyer Homero Torralba) from Guatemala.
Emauel Castillo Erunes 25314M (lawyer Cheryl Blum) seemed not to understand, had further consultation with his lawyer and was seen alone at a break between two groups. He still did not seem very clear on what was being said but was given ‘time served’.
The judge recommended that Gabriela Alamilla Gonzalez 25373M and Oscar Eder Ventura Rojas 25377M be sent to the same facility to serve their 30 days each.
Judge Ferraro sentenced the group to 2440 days (almost 6.7 years). At the cost of incarceration of $161 a day, that’s $392,840 for the taxpayer and untold misery for many families.
I spoke to lawyer Leach for a little while before court. He had worked through the lunch hour and gotten someone to take two of his clients because two needed extra attention. He said in the past when the docket was all plea bargains there was not much that a lawyer could do except get concerns on the record. By the time people charged with a misdemeanor and a felony get to court they have signed a plea agreement and the sentence is set. Now that the ‘petties’ (illegal entry only) are being brought to Streamline again there is leeway for lawyers to argue those cases and they are speaking out more often. I think the family which came briefly to court today was probably the wife and children of a defendant who was picked up returning to his family here. Next time I get a chance I will ask him.
Without the shackles the procedure has changed a bit. Prisoners arrive and leave in shackles to a room next to the courtroom. There is about 5 minutes between groups as the groups of 7 are unshackled and reshackled. The proceedings last a little longer.