Judge dismisses charges against man accused of smuggling in illegals
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A judge on Friday dismissed four felony charges of human smuggling against a man who was arrested while driving a van on Interstate 70 in October.
After the charges were dismissed in a preliminary hearing, Noe De Jesus Gonzalez Molina now faces only traffic violations, but his attorney, Chip McCrory, said Gonzalez Molina will likely be deported eventually due to his immigration status.
“It was just a bad investigation that should have never been filed,” McCrory said of the smuggling charges.
Gonzalez Molina was pulled over for allegedly weaving while driving a van east of Glenwood Canyon.
The Colorado State Patrol suspected he and the man in the front passenger seat were going to accept money to drive four illegal immigrants to Texas and Washington, D.C. Gonzalez Molina, 27, and Nelvys Guevara, 31, were both arrested on suspicion of four counts of human smuggling. Gonzalez Molina was also charged with driving without a license, failure to provide immediate proof of insurance and careless driving.
The human-smuggling law basically targets anyone who agrees to accept payment to transport an illegal immigrant trying to avoid immigration laws.
“Every (Roaring Fork Transportation Authority) bus driver in the valley is probably in violation of this law the way they wanted to interpret it,” McCrory said of law enforcement officials. “They just had a lack of evidence with regards to my client to show this was any kind of smuggling operation or they were getting paid for anything at all.”
According to a state patrol arrest affidavit, Gonzalez Molina and four passengers were in the U.S. illegally. The front-seat passenger, Guevara, had a Texas driver’s license and told the patrol he let Gonzalez Molina drive because he was tired. Troopers used a standard form for questioning in Spanish and English, and determined that three passengers said they would have to pay for the transportation once they reached their destinations in either Texas or Washington, D.C., the affidavit said.
“On cross examination, it turns out that’s not what these people said,” McCrory said. “A trooper admitted maybe he’d misunderstood them. … The trooper who made the stop doesn’t speak Spanish. The one who did, read the form, they filled in answers, and he completely misunderstood their answers.”
The question actually asked if the passengers paid anyone to get across the U.S. border, and didn’t ask anything about paying the two men to travel between state lines, McCrory said.
The affidavit says the driver and front-seat passenger rented the van in Los Angeles. McCrory said the van was not rented and that a state patrol trooper admitted on the witness stand Friday that the statement in the affidavit was incorrect.
Deputy District Attorney Frank Horvath said there was conflicting information about whether the vehicle was rented.
Horvath said he thought the patrol did a good job, but that it couldn’t be proven there was any payment to the driver.
Court records indicate that, though the counts against Gonzalez Molina were dismissed because there was no evidence showing he had anything to gain from driving the van, Judge Daniel Petre made no findings about Guevara’s case.
Gonzalez Molina is scheduled to appear for arraignment on the traffic violations on Jan. 24, and Guevara is scheduled for arraignment on four counts of human smuggling on the same date.
McCrory said he was unsure of whether the four passengers were deported yet.
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