Charges Dropped Against Colombian National Charged with Illegal Entry

Charges of illegal entry into the U.S. by a Colombian national were dropped on Tuesday during a federal bench trial held on St. Thomas. The judge presiding over the trial of the accused said the court could not prove illegal entry beyond a reasonable doubt.

Court documents said German Saldana-Sanchez was detained after being interviewed by Customs agents at the Cyril E. King Airport on June 30. Proceedings were interrupted when the public defender representing Sanchez challenged the circumstances leading up to his client being detained.

Federal Public Defender Matthew Campbell cited the Sixth Amendment, saying Sanchez had a constitutional right to confront his accusers in a court of law. Two Customs and Border Protection officers testified at trial, saying the defendant was held over after he appeared at the Customs clearance desk. At that time, witnesses said an interpreter was brought in to assist with the questioning.

A recording was made of the interaction between Sanchez and the CBP agent, which was reviewed by the defendant, the agent and the interpreter before Sanchez signed it.

The interpreter did not appear at trial. Campbell challenged the omission and said statements Sanchez made at the airport were made out of court and amounted to hearsay. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller told the government’s lawyers and the defense to argue the point in written briefs.

On Dec. 14, Miller issued an order and opinion. In the opinion, the magistrate said the interpreter was not a witness, but the government still had to prove that the out-of-court statements recorded at King Airport belonged to Sanchez.

With that, the magistrate ordered the illegal entry trial to resume on Tuesday. When it did, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office filed a motion to dismiss.

“The attorney for the government has concluded that, as of this date, the admissible portion of the available evidence would not permit the Court to find, beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant is guilty of the charge alleged … ,” the motion filed on Tuesday said.

Campbell offered no opposition, and the court accepted the government’s motion to dismiss the case.