Attorney says ICE denied access to lawyer while interrogating man in O’Neill immigration case

February 6, 2019

ICE agents and federal prosecutors kept a man from seeing his lawyer last summer after he was arrested in an immigration raid at Elkhorn River Farms, his attorney said in a court filing Friday, calling it an “effective hijacking of the Constitution.”

Eric Beringer, a supervisor at the farm near O’Neill, is accused of conspiring with Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado, who ran two staffing companies, and others to help people who were in the country illegally get agricultural jobs.

On Aug. 8, special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Beringer and about 50 others at Elkhorn River Farms, for allegedly being part of the plot or for being in the country without permission.

Lincoln attorney John Berry said Beringer was handcuffed and shackled and driven about an hour to a park where those arrested were allowed to use park bathrooms, then waited in vans without air conditioning as agents spent about an hour at a Dairy Queen.

They ultimately were taken to a makeshift detention facility in Grand Island, where they were interrogated in outdoor tents before they were booked.

That same day, Elkhorn River Farms hired Berry Law Firm to represent Beringer, Berry said. He said Justin Kalemkiarian, an attorney at the firm, immediately drove to Grand Island to meet with Beringer and advise him of his rights, while Berry left a voicemail for Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods to inform her they’d been retained.

But, Berry said, when Kalemkiarian got there, an ICE agent wouldn’t allow him to see Beringer, saying he didn’t have a right to counsel until the following day.

He said Woods agreed, and told Kalemkiarian that Beringer already was making statements to officers.

When Kalemkiarian told Berry, Berry reached out to Woods and told her Beringer had a right to counsel as of July 17, the day he was indicted, and Kalemkiarian shouldn’t have been turned away from meeting with him.

Woods ultimately offered to facilitate a meeting.

But, because of the delay, Berry now wants any statements Beringer made before that happened to be suppressed from the case where he’s accused of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and harboring.

“Despite knowing that he was represented, government agents prevented Beringer’s legal counsel from making contact with him,” Berry wrote in a brief.

He said ICE agents also never told Beringer that counsel had been retained and was trying to meet with him.

Berry said the “effective hijacking of the Constitution in order to allow unfettered interrogation is a prime example of the coercion the government was willing to use.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office hasn’t yet responded.

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