(Elizabeth Crum/Nevada News Bureau) – Political Eye at the LVRJ yesterday reported that Brian Sandoval is finally up with an Issues page on his campaign website. Nothing like waiting until the week before early voting starts to fully populate your website with information the electorate might need in order to make its decision.
But I digress.
What I really want to write about is Brian Sandoval’s rhetoric on immigration issues vs. his record on the federal bench. First, his stated stance, from the Immigration section of his Issues page:
I oppose amnesty. As a Federal Judge, I saw both sides of the immigration issue. It was my duty to sentence undocumented immigrants for their crimes, but it was also my honor to swear in new Americans and to see the smiles and pride on their faces as they completed the process of becoming a citizen.
We must be able to verify that those individuals who work in our country are here legally and are eligible for work. Businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should be held accountable.
I believe that we must enforce our laws, secure our borders and respect the efforts of those who have become a citizen through the proper legal process.
The American Dream is alive and well, but it must be pursued legally.
Driver’s Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants
I oppose giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Nevada law requires proof of legal residency and a social security number to obtain a driver’s license. I support the law and oppose any changes to the law.
That’s the rhetoric. Now here’s the record:
While on the federal bench, Sandoval repeatedly waived or reduced prison sentences and doled out minimum fines to criminal illegal immigrants who were repeat offenders, at least one of them over the strong objections of federal prosecutors.
Here are some examples [including case information]:
Reyes-Barajas was indicted and arrested in January 2008 on a charge of re-entering the U.S. illegally after being deported. A sentencing memorandum in the case by U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre stated: “Suspended from school for fighting, on probation for carrying a concealed weapon, and, while on probation, shooting and injuring a person in a public parking lot, the defendant was deported after his conviction for Assault with a Deadly Weapon and service of state prison time. Thereafter, without the express consent of the Attorney General or his designated successor…defendant illegally returned to the United States.”
The U.S. Probation Office recommended that Reyes-Barajas receive probation on the re-entry charge.
The U.S. Attorney objected and said: “The record must be clear: the defendant has yet to be punished for his continuing offense of illegal re-entry by an alien who has a prior aggravated felony conviction. In what appears to be an unprecedented step, Probation recommends that the Court disregard the defendant’s applicable Sentencing Guidelines range of 42-51 months and sentence the defendant to time served. A proposed departure of this magnitude – more than 90% of the applicable guidelines range – is at odds with the Court’s obligation to consult the Sentencing Guidelines when determining an appropriate sentence under 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a)(4).”
Despite sentencing guidelines and over the strong objections of the U.S. Attorney, Judge Sandoval sentenced Reyes-Barajas to time served, three years of supervised release and a $100 fine. [Case #3:07-cr-00071, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Juan Ramon Sepulveda-Leon
Sepulveda-Leon was indicted in August 2008 for illegal re-entry into the U.S. He also was found to have a prior (2004) felony conviction in Douglas County on a drug trafficking charge (NRS 453.3385). Sandoval sentenced Sepulveda-Leon to time served, three years supervised release and a $100 fine. [Case #3:08-cr-068, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Douglas County court records show that Sepulveda-Leon was arrested in an undercover narcotics operation on Dec. 8, 2004. He entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced on March 8, 2005 to up to three years of probation.
One of the conditions of Sepulveda-Leon’s probation was that if deported, he would not return to the U.S. Judge Gamble told Sepulveda-Leon at his sentencing hearing that if he was deported and returned to the U.S., he would be back before the court, which would then sentence him to 1-3 years in prison. Sepulveda-Leon was deported on June 6, 2005.
J. Reyes Vasquez-Castaneda
Vasquez-Castaneda was indicted in August 2008 for being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm – a .30-caliber/20 gauge, over-and-under shotgun. Sandoval sentenced him to time served, three years of supervised release and a $100 fine. [Case #3:08-cr-0076, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Rafael Flores Pastor
Pastor was charged in October 2007 with illegal re-entry after being arrested while working under an assumed name at a McDonald’s restaurant in Reno. A background check determined that Pastor had a felony conviction on drug trafficking charges in Washoe County in 1997 and had been sentenced to seven years in Nevada State Prison. Judge Sandoval sentenced him to time served on the current charge, three years of supervised release and a $100 fine. [Case #3:07-cr-00081, U.S. District Court, Reno]
Miramontes-Sanchez was charged in a March 29, 2006 indictment by a federal grand jury with illegal re-entry into the U.S. after returning to the U.S. following his deportation to Mexico in August 2000. He was arrested in July 2003 when he was found in Nevada.
Miramontes-Sanchez was charged under a section of the federal criminal code that allows for up to two years in jail. But Judge Sandoval accepted a plea agreement allowing Miramontes-Sanchez to pay a $100 fine and be placed on “supervised release” for three years. If he was not deported, Miramontes-Sanchez was required to report to his probation office, but he was released from custody. [Case 3:06-cr-00053, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Michele Nino DeGuzman
In July 2005, DeGuzman was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of making and using false Alien Registration cards and Social Security cards under three different names. The charge was a class 3 felony with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
Based on a plea agreement accepted by Judge Sandoval, two of the three counts were dismissed, and DeGuzman was sentenced to 48 months of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $100 fine. [Case 3:05-cr-00151, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Julio Anguiano Cervantes
Cervantes was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2006 on three counts of aggravated identity theft and fraudulent use of a Social Security number. According to the indictment, Cervantes used the name of another individual and that individual’s Social Security number to seek employment at Bender Warehouse Company.
A plea agreement in Cervantes’ case said: “The defendant is aware he is subject to removal from the United States for being an alien present in the United States without proper authority. The defendant stipulates to his removal (deportation) from the United States and will cooperate with Immigration Officials to effect his removal.”
Judge Sandoval had the option of sending Cervantes to prison before his deportation, but instead sentenced him to time already served, three years of supervised release and an assessment of $200. [Case 3:06-cr-00118, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Rodriguez-Guzman was indicted in October 2005 on a charge of illegally re-entering the U.S., after being apprehended and deported to Mexico numerous times: May 9, 2000; May 18, 2000; June 9, 2000; December 4, 2002; October 14, 2003; and April 12, 2005. Rodriguez-Guzman was in Washoe County Jail in September 2005 when a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent identified Rodriguez-Guzman as an illegal immigrant during a routine review of booking information.
With a sentence of up to two years possible, and based on a plea agreement, Judge Sandoval sentenced Rodriguez-Guzman to 20 months in federal prison with credit for time served, imposed a $100 fine and supervised release for three years after Rodriguez-Guzman left prison.
A pre-sentencing report in the case revealed that besides his numerous prior arrests and deportations, Rodriguez-Guzman had been convicted in California in April 2002 on a charge of statutory rape. [Case 3:05-cr-00203, U.S. District Court, Reno, Nevada]
Team Sandoval’s response (via spokesperson Mary-Sarah Kinnear) when asked about these cases:
“Judge Sandoval was tough but fair and each case had a unique set of facts, but in almost every case, if the sentence was reduced it was usually to speed up deportation. Judge Sandoval has won the endorsement of law enforcement both as Attorney General and as a candidate for Governor. His respect for the law is beyond reproach.”
Not sure how a reduced sentence speeds up deportation (perhaps it does) and/but not sure why that would be the big goal…as deportation clearly did not work the first time around in each of these cases. It seems to me that with a repeat offender, you might want to do a little punishing first and then deport, just to make a point.
I asked those questions of Team Sandoval as a follow-up and will post an update here when they come in.
UPDATE: In response to my post yesterday (above) about Brian Sandoval’s judicial record of light sentencing for a number of criminal illegal aliens, Sandoval spokesperson Mary-Sarah Kinnear brings a story (written in 2007 by our own Sean Whaley when he was with the LVRJ) to my attention.
The piece was about lawmakers recommending to Corrections Department officials that they seek the release and deportation of hundreds of illegal immigrants in the prison system as a partial solution to overcrowding.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley both went on record supporting deportation.
So did State Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty, at least for those illegal immigrant inmates serving time for nonviolent crimes. Hardesty reasoned that if deported inmates returned to Nevada and were apprehended, they would have to serve any additional sentence in federal prison.
Fine, well and good.
But in five of the eight cases I cited yesterday, the individual in question had already been deported at least once. And Sandoval only ordered one of them to serve prison time. In that one case, Javier Rodriguez-Guzman was finally given two years in the slammer — after being apprehended and deported six times between 2000 and 2005.
However, the other four who did not get time behind bars were given probation and a small fine. Even if they were all immediately deported, it was then (at least) the second time in their history that deportation was privileged over serving time in federal institution.
And that does not meet the standard Justice Hardesty stated he thought should apply in these cases, nor does it meet the stated intention of District Court Judge David Gamble in the case of Juan Ramon Sepulveda-Leon. Gamble told the ex-felon in 2005 that if he returned to the United States, he would get 1-3 years time in prison. Sepulveda did return, but Sandoval gave him time served, three years supervised release (probation) and a $100 fine.
Whether you think Sandoval did right or wrong in each of these cases, the point is that he has recently taken a Tough-on-Immigration-Law stance (along with most of the rest of the GOP candidates) but at least part of his record on the federal bench does not seem to support his place on that bandwagon.