An undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had been deported 20 times and had been arrested for various offenses was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to brutally assaulting two women in Oregon on the same day in July.
The case was one of several that drew the attention of the Trump administration as it has tried to crack down on and deport undocumented immigrants. Federal officials have held up immigrants like the man involved, Sergio Jose Martinez, as examples of undocumented people who must be expelled from the country, but who have instead been allowed to roam free thanks to so-called sanctuary cities.
The sentencing came one day after another undocumented immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who had previously been deported repeatedly, was acquitted of murder, manslaughter and assault charges related to the fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle, who was killed while walking on a San Francisco pier. (He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.)
Although both cases became politicized, the facts of Mr. Martinez’s case — and its outcome — were starkly different. On July 24, about two weeks after Mr. Martinez, 31, was released from jail, prosecutors say, he entered the bedroom of a 65-year-old woman, forced her to perform oral sex, and assaulted her before stealing her car. Hours later, he assaulted a middle-aged woman in a parking garage.
Amity Girt, the deputy district attorney who handled the case for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, said that Mr. Martinez pleaded guilty on Friday to 10 charges, including sodomy, assault and robbery. His 35-year sentence does not include the possibility of an early release.
“There were two victims in this case who either directly or through family members presented very gut-wrenching-to-hear impact statements in court today,” she said in a telephone interview late Friday.
Mr. Martinez’s lawyer, Jonathan Sarre, said his client had chosen to take the plea deal against his advice. Mr. Sarre said he thought it might have been possible to negotiate for closer to 20 years of prison time.
Still, in a telephone interview, Mr. Sarre said he had a “problem with using an individual person to advocate for strict immigration laws.”
After Mr. Garcia Zarate’s acquittal on Thursday, “Mr. Martinez becomes the immigration boogeyman that the administration all wants us to fear,” Mr. Sarre said. “He’s the poster boy for the border wall. It’s a great way to scare people.”
KOIN 6 News in Portland reported that one of the victim’s brothers told Mr. Martinez in court on Friday to “rot in hell.” The station also said that as Mr. Martinez exited the courtroom, he told the victims’ families: “See all you guys in hell.” Mr. Sarre confirmed that an exchange like that occurred, and noted that his client has suffered from mental illness; a psychologist found him competent enough to stand trial, Mr. Sarre said.
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Mr. Martinez has a long list of what his lawyer said were relatively minor crimes like low-level drug offenses, disorderly conduct and other petty misdemeanors. The most serious crime Mr. Sarre said he was aware his client had committed before the July assaults was a burglary in California for which he was deported.
Mr. Martinez had been in jail in Multnomah County serving time for a drug offense when he finished his time and was released last summer, Mr. Sarre said. About two weeks later, Mr. Martinez assaulted the two women.
Cases like that of Mr. Martinez have pitted local sheriffs against the Trump administration in what has often devolved into a blame game. When the White House criticized the Multnomah County sheriff, Mike Reese, for letting Mr. Martinez go, Sheriff Reese argued that federal immigration authorities were at fault for failing to provide a legal basis for him to hold Mr. Martinez longer.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has spoken publicly about the case and several others like it, arguing that releasing potentially deportable immigrants when their jail terms expire does “far broader damage to the country than many understand.”
The sheriff’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment on Friday night. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Associated Press it would seek to have Mr. Martinez transferred to its custody when he completes his sentence so that the authorities can deport him.
He would be 66 at that time.
“I’ve done everything from traffic tickets to murder,” said Mr. Sarre, who also represented Mr. Martinez for the offenses that landed him in jail in the weeks before the July assaults. “I don’t think anyone could have expected this to turn out the way it did or for this to happen.”
He reiterated something he said a colleague had told him — that Mr. Martinez had “ruined it for every other hardworking person who doesn’t have papers.”
“There’s quite a few of them,” he added.