Judge Warns He’ll Cite Defense for Contempt
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Defense lawyers in the trial of 11 sanctuary movement members have received a stern warning from the judge that they could be cited for contempt if they bring up their clients’ motivations.
″Motive is not a defense in this case in any way, shape or form,″ U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll told defense lawyers Tuesday.
Attorney A. Bates Butler III answered, ″I did not intend to be contemptuous. I do not think I was.″
Carroll planned to continue discussions today regarding prosecutor Donald M. Reno Jr.’s request that defense attorneys be found in contempt.
The 11 sanctuary defendants are charged with conspiracy for allegedly smuggling Central American refugees into the country. The defendants contend the aliens were political refugees, but the prosecution contends they merely were seeking better jobs.
Reno made his request during the opening statement Tuesday of Butler, who was giving the sixth of 11 planned defense opening statements.
The prosecutor contended the defense lawyers deliberately defied Carroll’s pretrial orders limiting the type of evidence that could be presented, particularly an Oct. 28 order barring any argument that the defendants acted in the belief that the Central Americans were political refugees.
Carroll did not rule on Reno’s request Tuesday, but he did criticize the defense lawyers, accusing them of trying to force a mistrial.
″I’m the keeper of the door,″ the judge said. ″Having a conspiracy charge doesn’t open the door to a floodgate of evidence. ... All that I think is sought here is a continuous effort to mistry this case.″
Defense lawyer Robert Hirsh said he believed Carroll’s orders were in error, but that lawyers intended to stay within them.
Earlier Tuesday, Carroll denied several defense motions seeking a mistrial on claims that Reno made improper statements during his opening statement last week, and that Carroll improperly interrupted a defense lawyer’s statement.
Defense lawyer James Brosnahan told the jury Tuesday the defendants were not involved in a complicated ″general-oriented conspiracy,″ as Reno described last week.
The defendants are ″people who devote their lives and their activities to helping other people,″ said Hirsh.
Another defense lawyer, Ellen Yaroshefsky, said sanctuary workers were deceived by federal informant Jesus Cruz, who attended Bible meetings along with refugees and is expected to be a key government witness. Cruz ″pretended to care about those people,″ she said.
Hirsh said Cruz and another government informant, Solomon Graham, ″had trafficked in flesh for money themselves″ by transporting illegal aliens within the United States before they became informants.
He said his client, the Rev. John Fife III of Tucson, considered a founder of the sanctuary movement, became aware of the problems facing Central Americans in 1980 after 13 people died while trying to cross the southern Arizona desert.
Members of Fife’s Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson decided in late 1981 to declare themselves the first sanctuary church in the United States, Hirsh said. Months earlier, he said, Fife and others were advised by lawyers that people fleeing their homelands ″with a well-founded fear of persecution″ were entitled to refugee status under U.S. law.