UPDATE: When Prosecutors Cheat Justice to Protect Aliens
This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky was published May 9, 2017 by Conservative Review.
There’s an outrageous new phenomenon in the criminal justice system: local prosecutors giving special treatment to illegal (and legal) aliens.
Michael Daly graphically illustrates the problem of prosecutors failing to prosecute in his Daily Beast story about Abhishek Gattani, an alien computer industry executive in Silicon Valley. Despite repeated, iPhone-recorded domestic abuse of his wife, Gattani got a special deal from local prosecutors. Why? According to the prosecutor in the case, Steve Fein, it is because his boss, Santa Clara County district attorney Jeff Rosen, wants to ensure that Gattani doesn’t get deported because of his immigration status.
This is the same Santa Clara County that sued the Trump administration and obtained a district court injunction to prevent the administration from enforcing its new rules that bar giving Justice Department and Homeland Security grants to sanctuary jurisdictions like Santa Clara County. Apparently, the county really wants to make sure that domestic abusers and other criminals stay in Santa Clara County rather than get sent back to their home countries.
Gattani was facing his second felony domestic violence charge. He was arrested the first time when a postman saw him punching his wife outside their home and called the police. More recently, his wife and victim, Neha Rastogi, actually recorded the audio of her beating on her iPhone.
It makes for painful listening. One can hear Gattani repeatedly calling his wife a “bitch” and repeatedly hitting her in the presence of their infant daughter. Rastogi also has a second recording, made a month later, in which Gattani tells her he would like to see her murdered.
Gattani pleaded “no contest” to the charge. Yet the prosecutor reduced the charge from felony assault to accessory after the fact, along with a misdemeanor charge of “offensive touching.” Fein tried to defend his actions by claiming that being an accessory after the fact was still a felony charge and therefore a fair resolution of the case. But because this is not a charge involving violence, it would no longer put Gattani at risk of being deported back to India. In fact, according to Fein, if Gattani carried out the very light terms of his sentence recommended by Fein —- only 30 days in custody, served on weekends, and three years of probation, even the felony charge will get reduced to a misdemeanor with no objection from the prosecutor.
The Daily Beast reports that his victim is not at all happy about this “resolution.” Rastogi wonders how someone who is arrested for a crime can be charged with being an accessory after the fact without being charged with the crime itself. And she is particularly offended that being beaten was treated as only “offensive touching.” In her victim statement, she said she felt “FOOLED, disgraced and ridiculed as a victim.”
Prosecutors are charged with administering justice objectively and without bias. That includes taking into account the severity of the crime and the injuries suffered by a victim. Reducing the charges against a criminal because of who he is in society, as opposed to the exact circumstances surrounding the crime, is morally wrong and offensive to the rule of law.
We would all think it wrong if two criminals who committed the exact same crime and inflicted the exact same injuries were treated differently because one was a poor, working-class individual and another was a white-collar executive at a big company.
What is happening in Santa Clara is just as bad.
The county powers that be are giving a domestic abuser a break because he is not a citizen. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently criticized such behavior when it was reported that the acting district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, Eric Gonzalez, issued similar instructions to his prosecutors to avoid leveling charges that might lead to deportation. The chief deputy state’s attorney in Baltimore, Michael Schatzow, the Baltimore Sun reports, has also given such a directive to his prosecutors, telling them to think twice before they charge aliens with non-violent crimes in order to prevent “potential collateral consequences” —- like deportation.
Sessions found it disturbing that prosecutors would “openly brag about not charging cases appropriately —- giving special treatment to illegal aliens to ensure these criminal aliens aren’t deported from their communities.” Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., called it shameful that the Baltimore prosecutor “is unwilling to enforce the law against illegal aliens who commit crimes in the United States.”
These prosecutors are deliberately discriminating against American citizens. As Sessions said, they are “advertis[ing] that they will charge a criminal alien with a lesser offense than presumably they would charge a United States citizen. It baffles me.”
Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. A well-connected former career prosecutor recently told me that he has been hearing complaints from his prosecutor friends around the country. They have been prohibited from notifying federal immigration authorities about felons they are prosecuting who happen to be illegal immigrants, prohibited from speaking to the media about recidivist illegal immigrant felons, and in some cases prohibited from requesting immigration removal proceedings to commence against convicted felons who are in the country illegally.
The consequences of this kind of reckless behavior are all too predictable. Aliens will have criminal charges reduced or eliminated for purely political reasons. They will be let loose back into society even sooner, with the repeat offenders among them able to victimize even more residents of their community.
And that is all but guaranteed to happen. A 2011 GAO study reviewing the criminal histories of 251,000 criminal aliens in federal, state, and local prisons found they had been arrested nearly 1.7 million times —- for close to three million criminal offenses.
Apparently, prosecutors in Santa Clara County, Baltimore, and Brooklyn want to make sure that this crime spree continues.
Just as Conservative Review published this commentary about local prosecutors going easy on aliens so they can avoid being deported, the New Boston Post published a tragic (and infuriating) story that shows the lethal consequences of such policies. On May 7, engaged doctors Lina Bolanos and Richard Field were brutally murdered (their throats were cut). The suspect, Bampumim Teixeira, was shot by police after he fired at them in the condominium where the killings occurred.
Teixeira is a green card holder originally from Guinea-Bissau, according to the District Attorney’s office. He was also a bank robber. According to the New Boston Post, he was convicted of robbing the Citizens Bank in Boston in 2016 after handing the teller a note telling her he would shoot her and everybody in the bank if she didn’t hand over $5,000. When he was arrested, he admitted that he had also robbed a bank in 2014.
Legal aliens like Teixeira are subject to deportation if they are convicted of a theft offense that imposes a term of imprisonment of at least one year (8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(43(G)). In criminal law, crimes that result in sentences of a year or more are considered felonies.
Apparently, some enterprising investigative reporters in Boston obtained the original court documents of the sentencing of Teixeira for the 2016 bank robbery. They discovered that the local judge, Lisa Grant, “crossed out the number ‘365’,” which was the number of days that Teixeira was originally sentenced to serve in prison, and replaced it with the number “364.” By shaving one day off of the sentence, it dropped the alien below the deportation threshold.
Of course, one has to wonder at a judge and a local prosecutor who agreed to only a year in jail for someone who robbed two banks. But what is much worse is that by giving Teixeira this preferential treatment, Judge Grant made sure that he would stay in this country and not be deported by the Department of Homeland Security. But for her misbehavior, the probability is high that Lina Bolanos and Richard Field would be alive today.
Local prosecutors and judges who engage in this type of behavior should be removed or voted out of office. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, it is “baffling” that any law enforcement official would believe that this is acceptable behavior.