Sanctuary Trial Jury Begins Deliberations
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ A federal court jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of 11 sanctuary movement activists accused of smuggling Central Americans into the United States.
At the end of the nearly six-month trial, U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll gave the panel 50 minutes of instructions on the laws they were to apply to the evidence.
The jury recessed for the day after deliberating nearly four hours.
All the defendants were charged with conspiracy to smuggle Salvadoran and Guatemalan aliens into the United States, a felony punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
The activists have maintained they provided sanctuary on the premise that international and U.S. laws, including the 1980 Refugee Act, grant legal asylum to refugees who are fleeing political persecution and violence.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Justice Department contend that Central Americans entering this country without documentation do so for economic reasons, and those that are caught are deported.
Several of the defendants also were named in 29 other counts - felonies of bringing in, harboring, encouraging and inducing or transporting aliens, or a misdemeanor, aiding and abetting illegal entry.
Maximum penalties on those charges are five years’ imprisonment and $2,000 fines per count, and six months’ imprisonment and $500 fine on the misdemeanor.
The jury deliberated about 45 minutes before adjourning for lunch and asking the judge by note whether they could underline or otherwise mark each juror’s set of instructions.
Carroll, after a brief session in open court, sent back a note saying no. Deliberations resumed early in the afternoon.
Deliberations began one day after prosecutor Donald M. Reno Jr. gave his final rebuttal to 6 1/2 days of closing arguments from 11 defense lawyers representing the defendants - two priests, a nun, a minister and seven church lay workers.
During the trial, Reno called 17 witnesses, including a paid undercover informant, an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent and 15 Salvadorans and Guatemalans that the government contended were assisted by defendants in entering the country.
The government contended the defendants violated immigration law by helping Central Americans who came to the United States for economic reasons.
The defense, which argued that the aliens were refugees fleeing political oppression and violence in their homelands, rested without calling any witnesses.
The clergymen on trial include the Rev. John M. Fife of Tucson, a Presbyterian minister considered a founder of the sanctuary movement; the Rev. Ramon Dagoberto Quinones of a Nogales, Mexico, and the Rev. Tony Clark of Nogales, Ariz., both Catholic priests.
One Roman Catholic nun, Sister Darlene Nicgorski of Milwaukee, Wis., and Phoenix, also was a defendant. With Carroll’s permission, Sister Nicgorski was in Milwaukee Thursday for the funeral of a friend killed in a traffic accident.
Other defendants are James Corbett, a retired Tucson rancher also considered a founder of the movement; Wendy LeWin of Phoenix; Socorro Pardo de Aguilar of Nogales, Mexico; Philip Willis-Conger of Tucson; Peggy Hutchison of Tucson; Nena MacDonald of Lubbock, Texas, and Mary K. Doan Espinoza of Nogales, Ariz.