Defense Asks Sanctuary Judge to Disqualify Himself
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ The federal judge hearing the alien-smuggling trial of 11 sanctuary workers today asked another jurist to decide whether he must step down from the case.
The action by U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll came after defense lawyers argued that he had shown a ″deeply held bias″ against the defendants in comments made during jury selection and in his rulings on pretrial motions. In addition, the defense said the judge had a financial interest in a company with a plant in El Salvador.
Carroll, citing a law that requires another judge to consider any motion challenging a judge’s impartiality, asked Chief Judge Richard M. Bilby to consider the matter, and a hearing was planned later in the day.
The defense also filed a motion seeking to dismiss the case on grounds the defendants were being selectively prosecuted, and seeking a delay in the trial because it claimed a ruling Carroll made Monday would force a major change in defense strategy.
Carroll, now presiding over jury selection in the case, ruled Monday that the defense cannot make a case that the defendants believed the aliens they helped were refugees.
Members of the sanctuary movement contend that the Salvadorans and Guatemalans they helped enter the United States were refugees seeking political asylum.
But Carroll, in a four-page order, said a belief that each of the aliens involved was a refugee ″does not constitute a legal defense.″
Carroll also barred evidence of the defendants’ understanding of U.S. immigration laws, a factor in another defense.
The 11 are charged with conspiracy to smuggle aliens illegally into the United States. Some also are charged with transporting, harboring or concealing aliens.
The Rev. John Fife, a defendant, called the order ″an exercise in vindictiveness″ and said the proceeding ″is not even going to resemble a fair trial.″
″Judge Carroll has now excluded all of the truth from being heard by the jury,″ he said.
James Brosnahan, one of the defense attorneys, said the ruling was ″grossly unfair″ because it was issued after the trial had begun.
Philip Willis-Conger, one of the defendants, said Carroll has ″ruled out most of what the case is about.″
Quaker activist James A. Corbett, 52, a retired rancher who also is being tried, and Fife, 45, a Presbyterian minister, are considered founders of the sanctuary movement.
Other defendants include the Rev. Anthony Clark, 37, the Rev. Ramon Dagoberto Quinones, 49, and Sister Darlene Nicgorski, 41, Willis-Conger, 27, Mary K. Doan Espinoza, 30, Peggy Hutchison, 30, Wendy LeWin, 26, Nena MacDonald, 38, and Maria del Socorro Pardo de Aguilar, 58.
Charges against two other people indicted in January were dismissed, and three others pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts.
On June 25, Carroll denied a motion by prosecutor Donald M. Reno Jr. to prevent the defendants from claiming they had no intent to violate the law. The judge has ruled that intent is a requirement for conviction.
In another order, Carroll summarized his prior rulings barring any evidence supporting or opposing U.S. foreign policy, demonstrating civil strife, lawlessness or danger to civilians in foreign countries, establishing good or bad motive by the defendants, religious beliefs, or proving either necessity or duress by the defendants any alien’s surreptitious entry.