Government disputes claim that ICE denied access to lawyer while interrogating man arrested in raid

February 19, 2019

An assistant U.S. Attorney shot back against allegations that she and ICE agents kept a man from seeing his lawyer last summer after he was arrested in an immigration raid at Elkhorn River Farms.

“Defendant has attempted to mislead this court and defame members of HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) and the United States Attorney’s Office with factually inaccurate claims that are almost too numerous to mention,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods said in a recently filed motion in Eric Beringer’s case.

Earlier this month, Beringer’s attorney, John Berry, called what happened an “effective hijacking of the Constitution,” in a motion seeking to keep his statements from going in front of a jury.

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

In a 16-page response, Woods said Berry’s motion contained numerous factual inaccuracies and bombastic assertions.

Berry’s assertions, she said, are contradicted by the facts and that the evidence would show Beringer was properly advised of his right to counsel and his right to remain silent and waived them before giving a statement Aug. 8.

That day, 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.

Woods said Beringer was placed in a 13-passenger van with 10 other detainees and two deportation officers.

But she disputed Beringer’s claim that they waited in hot vans without air conditioning as agents spent about an hour at a Dairy Queen. Woods said one of the officers went inside to order food while the other stayed in the van, with the air conditioner on, and they left after about 10 minutes.

Woods said at about 2:40 p.m. Beringer got to the makeshift detention facility in Grand Island, where he was taken immediately to the processing area.

Berry said that day he called Woods to say Elkhorn River Farms had hired Berry Law Firm to represent Beringer, but an ICE agent wouldn’t allow attorney Justin Kalemkiarian to meet with him when he got to Grand Island.

He alleged that Beringer was being interviewed at the time, that the agent said he didn’t have a right to counsel until the following day and Woods agreed.

In her brief, Woods disputed the claim, saying Berry left her a voicemail at about 3:20 p.m. that they were going to be representing one of the managers, but he didn’t say Beringer’s name.

She said Beringer’s hourlong interview started around 6 p.m. and had ended by 9 p.m., when Kalemkiarian arrived.

“At the time of the interview, no one at the ICE processing site knew of the potential representation of defendant by the Berry Law Firm,” Woods said.

She said Beringer also didn’t indicate that he wanted an attorney present after being given his Miranda rights and agreeing to speak.

Woods said Kalemkiarian was told that he couldn’t speak with Beringer because they still were processing other people, and for “security and logistical concerns.” She said there were no private offices available where they could meet.

A federal judge ultimately will decide. A hearing is set next week.