Joe Arpaio, Bill Montgomery and the Five Undocumented Workers Who Got Away
MCAO Is there finally a sliver of light between Montgomery and Sheriff Joe?
About twice a month, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery holds a press conference at his office. I didn't make it to the one this past week, but the MCAO has a YouTube account, where it posts videos of these events from start to finish.
During the presser, Montgomery opened by addressing Sheriff Joe Arpaio's recent immigration raid on the local restaurant chain Uncle Sam's and the question of why some undocumented workers were hit with felony ID theft and forgery charges, but not others.
He insisted it all came down to not having the evidence needed on all those taken into custody.
"Prosecutors aren't rubber stamps for any law enforcement agency," he said. "We have an independent duty to objectively review evidence to determine whether or not we have the evidence necessary to proceed with the case."
Which almost sounds like a slap at Arpaio, though Montgomery was quick to downplay not charging five of the workers, who later were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE soon released the five men with pending dates in their immigration cases, which could take up to two years or more to wind through immigration courts.
During that time, they should be able to apply for temporary work permits and obtain driver's licenses as well.
(A tenth person collared, according to those later released, was an Anglo woman, a waitress, who may have been arrested on an outstanding warrant.)
Monty explained that the standard for an arrest is probable cause, while prosecutors must adhere to a higher standard: whether or not there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction.
About 20 percent of the time, his office does not file charges on cases brought to the MCAO by law enforcement, he said.
Later, Montgomery was even more emphatic that dropping charges against the five was not a departure from current policy.
"It would be incorrect for anyone to think there's been a change in how prosecutors review employment related fraud cases," he asserted. "Or that somehow there was less of an effort by the sheriff's department's office to investigate this particular case."
But in previous ID theft and forgery cases, Monty's office has used flimsy, contradictory and sometimes nonexistent "evidence" to charge undocumented workers and hold them nonbondable for months.