Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Annals of Dumb Ass Law Enforcement

The following item by reporeter Joel Burgess from the Asheville Citizen-Times speaks for itself:

Antonio Hernandez Carranza took a wrong turn, and it turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes he's ever made.  The Carson, Calif., man had driven more than 2,000 miles — three days straight — to see his sister in Johnson City, Tenn.  But instead of reaching the home of his sister, whom he hadn't seen in nearly a decade, the 45-year-old carpet cleaner found himself in the Buncombe County jail under a $300,000 bond on charges of driving while intoxicated, failing to heed police lights and sirens and possession of 91 pounds of cocaine.  He was released four days later after sheriff's deputies realized Hernandez, who said he doesn't drink at all, wasn't intoxicated and that what was in the back of his truck was exactly what he had said — $400 worth of cheese, shrimp and tortilla and tamale dough meant as a gift to his sister.

Now struggling to reclaim his truck and dog that were taken away, Hernandez said he wants only to see his family and possibly get some compensation for his time and expenses.

While in jail, he called his wife, Bernice, to tell her that he could be facing 40 years in prison and may never see her or their two boys again.  'She and the kids were crying. She was inconsolable,' Hernandez said through an interpreter.

Local residents affiliated with Latino advocacy groups say Hernandez, a legal resident who understands a fair amount of English but doesn't speak it well, was targeted because of his ethnicity.  Deputies said Hernandez appeared drunk and they acted quickly to get narcotics test results after he was jailed.

Buncombe County Sheriff's Office Lt. Randy Smart acknowledged that four days in jail under an extremely high bond seemed a stiff penalty for failing to heed police lights and sirens, of which Hernandez was found guilty.

'It's one of those things when you go back and look at it, it does seem a little harsh,' the Sheriff's Office spokesman said.

Hernandez, who came to the United States in1985 to harvest grapes and strawberries, was not a legal resident until 1989 when he received amnesty under a federal program signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.  Through that status, he was able to gain employment, such as at the carpet cleaning company, where he now works and had accrued vacation.

While driving to his sister's home, he said he encountered police in Arizona and Texas who also questioned him about what he was carrying and appeared to suspect drugs.

'The police in Texas used dogs to check,' he said.

Each time, he said he was sent on his way. He's not sure how he ended up in Asheville, but believes he stayed on Interstate 40 when he should have turned onto Interstate 81 after Knoxville.  He was tired, but he said he kept driving because he was excited to see his sister.  In Asheville, he pulled over after he thought he saw steam coming from his truck. A deputy's car approached and an officer told him he couldn't stop there because he was blocking traffic, Hernandez said.

He started driving away and put his flashers on. The law enforcement car followed him with its lights on. Hernandez said he thought the car was shepherding him in the direction the officer wanted him to go. But ahead there were other law enforcement cars blocking his way.

Investigators' incident reports say stop sticks were used, but Hernandez said he doesn't remember seeing them or noticing his tires being deflated until seeing his truck days later in the impound lot.

Officers pulled him from the car, put a knee in his back and pinned his arm behind him, leaving scrapes and bruises.

He was tested several times for alcohol but it came back negative. It was after he was jailed that he learned of the cocaine charges. He said he tried to explain about the dough and how some was already made up for sweet pineapple tamales, but no one seemed to listen. 'Later I was speechless. I didn't eat or sleep while I was in jail. I was thinking about how this could have happened to me,' he said.

His court date was set for May 19. But Wednesday, he was brought out of the jail and to the courtroom where there was a public defender, a prosecutor and a judge.  He said he was told he was being found guilty of the one misdemeanor charge and would get credit for his time served in jail. He doesn't remember being asked to enter a plea.  On Thursday, Fay Burner, who defended Hernandez, said she couldn't talk about the case without his permission.

It's not clear why deputies originally thought the food was cocaine. It could have been that initial checks showed the dough and other items were narcotics, Smart said.  'We do field tests for presumptive testing,' the lieutenant said. Officers later appeared to push to get full lab tests done quickly, he said.

District Attorney Ron Moore said he wasn't sure of the details of the case and hadn't seen a written report. Others said Hernandez was treated poorly because he is a Latino of Indian origin with limited English.

'If he were white it would have been different,' said Gustavo Silva, a local Latino rights advocate. Silva, a U.S. citizen originally from Uruguay, went to help Hernandez after getting a call from someone in the courthouse about his plight.

Neither he nor Hernandez is sure he'll ever be paid for his trouble, including the food which is gone or the fees for retrieving his truck.  'I asked in court, ‘Who's going to pay me for what I lost?' They said, ‘I don't know. It's not my problem,' Hernandez said."
Yeah, further proof if you needed any, why anit-immigration law enforcement makes so little sense.  It leads to abuses like these.

No comments:

Post a Comment