Gazette reported that Ritter plea bargains for illegal immigrants "help[ed] them avoid deportation" -- but omitted Ritter's argument that they didn't

Gazette reported that Ritter plea bargains for illegal immigrants "help[ed] them avoid deportation" -- but omitted Ritter's argument that they didn't

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported that Democratic candidate and former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter allowed immigrants to plea bargain "to help them avoid deportation." But it did not mention that, in fact, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of plea deals.

An October 19 article in The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported that ads produced by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign "highlighted 152 cases" in which Democratic candidate and former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter allowed "immigrants -- both legal and illegal --" to plea-bargain to the felony charge of agricultural trespassing in order "to help them avoid deportation." As district attorney, Ritter did agree to 152 felony agricultural trespassing plea bargains with legal and illegal immigrants. But while the plea deals might have helped legal immigrants avoid deportation, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of any pleas to which they agree. The Gazette did not mention Ritter's position that the plea bargains did not help the illegal immigrants who received them to avoid deportation.

The Gazette article by Kyle Henley reported on a criminal investigation of the Beauprez campaign's use of information in its ads that might have come from a confidential national crime database. Providing context for the story, The Gazette reported, "The Beauprez ads highlighted 152 cases in which Ritter's office offered plea agreements to immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- to help them avoid deportation."

According to a June 11 Rocky Mountain News article, "unlawful presence" in the United States is a deportable offense: "The most common charge against those caught without authorization in the U.S. is 'unlawful presence,' a civil offense. The penalty is removal, and an immigrant can be detained in the meantime."

On October 12, the News reported Ritter's defense against the suggestion that the pleas helped illegal immigrants who received them avoid deportation:

Ritter and the district attorney's office have said the plea generally involved legal immigrants with green cards or visas and allowed them to separately plead their case against deportation before federal immigration officials. The plea did nothing to help illegal immigrants, Ritter said.

"An illegal immigrant is deportable whether they plead guilty to this felony or any other crime, even misdemeanors, even petty offenses," Ritter said. "It (the plea) was not used to preserve an arrangement where they could stay in the country."

In an October 1 Denver Post article about Beauprez's initial attack on Ritter's plea bargains with immigrants, Ritter said that as district attorney "he insisted his office contact immigration officials whenever a defendant was an illegal immigrant or had questionable immigration status," and that it "was up to the federal government to deport them." Ritter also stated "that the scarce resources in his office were used to prosecute violent and serious offenders and, sometimes, cases had evidentiary issues where a plea to a lesser charge was better than losing at trial."

From Henley's October 19 Gazette article, "Beauprez ad may violate federal law" (subsequently updated online and titled "Source of leak traced to federal official"):

The Beauprez ads highlighted 152 cases in which Ritter's office offered plea agreements to immigrants - both legal and illegal - to help them avoid deportation.

Last week, the campaign ran a potentially damaging television ad featuring Carlos Estrada Medina, who was arrested in Denver on drug charges but only received probation under a plea agreement. The ad claims Medina was later arrested in California for sexual abuse of a child.

Several media outlets investigated the ad and could not find any information about a California case involving Medina. Checks under his aliases also turned up nothing.

But over the weekend, Marshall told 9NEWS, a Denver television station, that "in federal criminal databases, the guy's information matches up."

The NCIC contains confidential law-enforcement records about criminal histories, fugitives, stolen property, missing persons and other details. The records in the NCIC are only available for law-enforcement purposes; it is a crime to access those records for almost any other reason.

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