"Designer Pleas" In Denver
October 02, 2006, 07:01 PM
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I've been away for a couple of days, so I missed this story about Bill Ritter, who was District Attorney in Denver and is now running for Governor of Colorado. The story is this: Ritter's office approved plea bargains specifically designed to keep legal resident aliens in the country, allowing them to plead guilty to the non-felonious offence of "agricultural trespass", in spite of the fact that most of these offences occurred in the highly urbanized "sanctuary city" of Denver.

A review of 15 of the agricultural trespass cases in Denver showed that heroin and cocaine charges, theft of motor vehicles and domestic violence crimes - miles away from any farm or open land - were transformed into agricultural trespass.

"This plea agreement was reached with the the specific purpose of not pleading guilty to an offense that would subject (the defendant) to deportation proceedings," wrote a defense attorney in a motion filed in a Denver court Oct. 11, 2000.

The defendant, Ernesto Leon Reyes, was a resident alien who was initially charged with five drug counts related to his possession and intention to distribute 2,000 grams of methamphetamine. ]Deportations avoided via DA's plea deals By Karen E. Crummy, Denver Post, October 1, 2006]

According to Hugh Hewitt, Ritter has tried several different excuses, but this one should be noted:

Ritter said Beauprez was trying to "confuse" the public by mixing cases involving illegal and legal immigrants, who have a completely different standing within the judicial system.

"I think he's being terribly irresponsible in lumping legal immigrants with illegal immigrants," Ritter said.

Well, yes. Illegal immigrant are deportable even if they haven't committed any crime—criminals with green cards can only be deported if they're convicted of a serious crime, and that's what Ritter's "designer pleas" were supposed to prevent. Hewitt says

District Attorneys are supposed to execute and enforce the criminal laws and their penalties, not craft transparently deceptive ways around them so that felons can avoid those penalties and remain in a community to victimize it again. The more the public focuses on Ritter's "deportation nullification" policy, the more it will become obvious that he ought not to be given the job of executing all of Colorado's other laws.

I agree. Although I don't know if his opponent, Republican Bob Beauprez, will be much better.