MAY 19, 2009
Claiming that the government’s proof is “not overpowering,” a federal appellate court has overturned an Iowa union leader’s conviction for helping illegal immigrants get jobs at a huge meatpacking company raided by immigration authorities in 2007.
The Marshalltown union official (Braulio Pereyra-Gabino) was one of several people criminally charged after 1,300 illegal immigrants got arrested in the federal raids of six Swift meatpacking plants in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Iowa and Minnesota.
Authorities said Pereyra-Gabino, vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, recruited Hispanic workers he knew were in the country illegally and coached them on how to evade getting deported. At his trial, prosecutors presented a secretly recorded tape of Pereyra-Gabino telling a few dozen new Hispanic employees to use authentic documents outside of work regardless of what they had presented to plant supervisors.
He also told illegal alien workers that he could help them get attorneys and that they should call him if they got arrested. Last August a federal jury convicted Pereyra-Gabino of harboring illegal immigrants but acquitted him of identity theft and Social Security fraud charges. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling that jury instructions were flawed because they failed to properly inform jurors of the essential elements of the offense charged and the government’s burden of proof. The court went on to say in its 12-page opinion that the government’s proof “is not overpowering.”
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