An Oregon judicial officer is under fire for allegedly undermining and obstructing the very laws she’s sworn to uphold.
Multnomah County judicial referee Monica Herranz is accused of helping an illegal immigrant elude federal agents who had been waiting outside her courtroom so they could arrest him for deportation, local media reported.
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In Oregon, judicial referees have many of the same powers as a judge but typically preside over small claims cases.
In this case, however, the allegations against Diddier Pacheco Salazar were anything but small.
He had been busted for alleged drunken driving, a serious crime that killed more than 10,000 Americans last year and is responsible for a third of all U.S. traffic deaths.
No doubt, most Americans of any political party would consider someone guilty of DUI to be a “bad hombre.”
Salazar was in court in January to change his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” as part of a sweetheart deal that would’ve let him avoid prison in exchange for entering a diversion program, according to The Willamette Week newspaper.
But his court-appointed attorney may have tipped him off that ICE agents would be waiting for him.
“I prepped my client. I said, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to pick you up outside or what, but here’s how to prepare,’” John Schlosser, told the newspaper. “After the court appearance, I went out in the hallway and sat. My client never came out. I can’t say that I’m surprised he didn’t come out, but I gave him his options, and assume he had to have been escorted out some other way.”
The “some other way” was likely a door traditionally only used by judges.
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“This individual was allowed to leave that courtroom through a doorway that is not a public doorway, and which ultimately led to his ability to leave the courthouse undetected by ICE,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said in a statement to Fox News.
Williams told CNN that when agents grew suspicious and tried to enter the court through the public door, they found it had been locked.
Who locked it… and who let Salazar out the other door?
All eyes are on Herranz, a member of the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association and part of a local government that has been openly hostile to the stepped-up immigration enforcement put in place by President Donald Trump.
Multnomah County issued a defiant statement in January saying it does not allow ICE workers access to any part of its courts that are not open to the public, and even told the agency to keep away.
“We don’t quibble with the fact that they have a job to do,” Judge Nan Waller, the court’s presiding judge, told TV station KOIN. “However, it would be nice if they were not inside the courthouse.”
But Herranz clearly crossed a line that goes beyond defiant statements and wishes over how “nice” it would be for law enforcement to stay out of a courthouse.
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“I was troubled because, on the face of it, what I heard sounded like potential federal criminal law violations and/or ethical violations,” Williams told Willamette Weekly. “Generally, we’re talking about obstruction of justice.”
His office has agreed not to pursue charges against the referee or even file a complaint with the bar – a generous concession given the circumstances – but Herranz may not be completely off the hook.
CNN reports that she is facing an internal investigation.
Salazar has since been arrested; it’s not yet clear if he has been deported.
— The Horn News editorial team