Appearing November 29 as a guest on 630 KHOW-AM host Peter Boyles' show, reporter Julie Hayden of KDVR Fox 31 dispensed several falsehoods regarding the case of immigration agent Cory Voorhis and Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) plea-bargain record as Denver district attorney. She asserted that Ritter and other prosecutors pled "crimes down to misdemeanors so that they weren't deportable offenses" -- but according to Colorado law, other news reports, and Boyles himself, the charge of agricultural trespass used in the cases they were discussing is a felony. Moreover, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of any state or local pleas to which they agree.
While discussing the case of federal immigration agent Cory Voorhis as a guest on 630 KHOW-AM host Peter Boyles' November 29 show, KDVR Fox 31 reporter Julie Hayden asserted that it is a "fairly common belief held in the ICE office" that Gov. Bill Ritter (D), as Denver district attorney, and other "local prosecutors" pled "crimes down to misdemeanors so that they weren't deportable offenses" for illegal immigrants. In fact, as Colorado Media Matters noted, newspaper reports have stated that the 152 plea bargains in question allowed both legal and illegal immigrants to plead guilty to the Class 5 felony of agricultural trespass, and according to Colorado law, second- and third-degree criminal trespass is a felony "if the person trespasses on premises so classified as agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony thereon." Furthermore, according to a September 30, 2006, report in the Rocky Mountain News (accessed through the Nexis database), the agricultural trespassing charge Ritter and others sought was "a Class 5 felony," not a misdemeanor as Hayden implied.
Additionally, as Colorado Media Matters has repeatedly noted, while the "agricultural trespass" plea deals Ritter's office approved might have helped legal immigrants avoid deportation, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of any state or local pleas to which they agree, according to U.S. law.
Hayden has been reporting on the case of Voorhis, who was charged with misusing his access to a criminal database to get information later used by 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign in an ad against Ritter. On Boyles' November 29 show, she echoed Boyles' repeated false claims regarding Ritter's plea-bargain record by asserting that the agricultural trespass plea used by Ritter's office and other local district attorneys "remove[d] ICE's [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ability to get rid of" illegal immigrants.
From the November 29 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show:
BOYLES: It's interesting, last hour -- yeah, last hour, we had Jason Salzman on, and we were talking about how much 2000 grams of meth is. Well, that's a plea bargain -- no -- 4000, excuse me, 2000 grams, that's 4 pounds of meth.
BOYLES: My God.
HAYDEN: That's a lot of meth.
BOYLES: Yeah, that'd keep Aurora up for a month.
HAYDEN: Talk about after-Thanksgiving diet.
BOYLES: How much is 2000 grams? It's 4 pounds -- 4 pounds of meth this guy gets caught with. Well, let's look for some -- where's that farmland?
HAYDEN: Well, and you know, and that's what they, ICE [federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agent, I think what they would want to point out is, that this is a fairly common belief held in the ICE office, is my understanding, that the local prosecutors -- and it wasn't just Ritter's office, this was pretty common -- pled these crimes down to misdemeanors so that they weren't deportable offenses. And then when ICE tries to deal with these guys later on, they have no grounds for deporting 'em. And they said, so what happens is, is these dangerous people end up getting left in the country. You know, the --
HAYDEN: --the local prosecutors remove ICE's ability to get rid of these people.
Contrary to Hayden's assertion that local prosecutors "pled these crimes down to misdemeanors," during an interview with News media critic Jason Salzman earlier in the same broadcast, Boyles himself described the agricultural trespass plea as "a Class 5 felony," as Colorado Media Matters noted:
BOYLES: The one guy who was the center of all of this -- and I don't even know his name now; it could either be Walter Ramo, it could be Carlos Roberto Estrada Medina, it could be Eugene Estrada -- an illegal, a heroin dealer. And he is allowed to plea to a Class 5 felony, agricultural trespass. And he did that on one -- no wait, I'm making sure I got my notes -- he got ag trespass. And he should have been -- obviously, he's a heroin dealer, so he's a death dealer, and he's an illegal. But he gets agricultural trespass, which I'm sure if we drove around Denver today we could find lots of farms and ranches. He takes off for California, where he perps a sex crime on a kid. In San Francisco, in fact. [emphasis added]
Further, an October 1, 2006, Denver Post article reported in a section titled "Taking the felony hit" that Denver immigration attorney Jeff Joseph described the plea as "the felony agricultural trespass charge." The News on October 12, 2006 (accessed through Nexis), similarly described the charge as "felony farm trespassing."
In addition, as Ritter's campaign repeatedly clarified before the November 7, 2006, election, aliens unlawfully present in the United States are always subject to deportation under U.S. law. As the News reported on June 11, 2006, "unlawful presence" in the United States is in and of itself a deportable offense: "The most common charge against those caught without authorization in the U.S. is 'unlawful presence,' a civil offense. The penalty is removal, and an immigrant can be detained in the meantime."
As Colorado Media Matters noted, the October 12, 2006, News article also reported Ritter's defense against the suggestion that the pleas helped illegal immigrants who received them avoid deportation:
Ritter and the district attorney's office have said the plea generally involved legal immigrants with green cards or visas and allowed them to separately plead their case against deportation before federal immigration officials. The plea did nothing to help illegal immigrants, Ritter said.
"An illegal immigrant is deportable whether they plead guilty to this felony or any other crime, even misdemeanors, even petty offenses," Ritter said. "It (the plea) was not used to preserve an arrangement where they could stay in the country."