Feds are to blame for release of rape suspect, NJ jail says
Federal immigration officials last week attacked a New Jersey jail for releasing an accused rapist despite an ICE request to detain the suspect. But Cumberland County officials this week said that ICE should blame itself for bungling the paperwork and failing to take the man into federal custody.
This is the latest instance that ICE has criticized a New Jersey jail for releasing an inmate only to face criticism for not doing its own job.
ICE and state officials have been at odds over the state's policies limiting cooperation by local cops and county jails with federal immigration authorities.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's Immigrant Trust Directive, which went into effect in March, is meant to engender cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities. Grewal last week expanded the directive to ban any formal cooperation agreements between local agencies and ICE, saying that the agreements effectively deputized local officers as agents of ICE.
Grewal has noted a distinction between the civil immigration laws that ICE enforces and the criminal laws that local cops enforce.
His news conference on Friday came a day after ICE faulted the Cumberland and Middlesex county jails for failing to honor ICE's detainer requests in three cases, including the case of 33-year-old Luciano Trejo-Dominguez, who prosecutors here have charged with sexually assaulting a victim between the ages of 13 and 15.
ICE's statement last week said that the Cumberland jail ignored the detainers filed by its the Pacific Enforcement Response Center on Aug. 13 and the ICE office in Mount Laurel on Aug. 14 after Luciano Trejo-Dominguez had been arrested on Aug. 12.
Trejo-Dominguez was eventually released from jail, pending trial, on Aug. 23.
ICE's statement uses language to suggest that Trejo-Dominguez is a fugitive but police in New Jersey are not looking for him. Trejo-Dominguez was cleared for release by two judges under the state's bail laws, which only locks up less than 20% of all defendants before trial.
Moreover, Cumberland County jail officials on Monday added that they never received a detainer request for Trejo-Dominguez until after his release, which came weeks after his initial arrest. ICE on Tuesday evening, however, denied that the detainer was defective or incomplete and that it was lodged with the jail on Aug. 14.
"On August 23, 2019 at 12:12 p.m., Inmate Luciano Dominguez-Trejo was discharged out of the CCDOC Booking System. At that time, CCDOC had no record of an ICE Detainer being lodged in the computer or a hard copy in the custody file," according to a written statement from county officials on Monday.
Cumberland County Jail Warden Richard Smith took umbrage at ICE's attack on his jail.
“We are tough on our staff when they are in the wrong but I will fight for my officers when they’ve done their job and in this instance they did just that," Smith said in a written statement.
"I realize ICE has been busy conducting raids and arresting immigrants, but what I won’t allow is for them not to have done their job and then attempt to place the blame on my department. Send me the proper paper, send it to me in a timely manner and with the necessary signatures and we will govern ourselves accordingly."
Emilio Dabul, a spokesman for the ICE office in Newark, said Tuesday evening that ICE was scheduled to take Dominguez-Trejo on Aug. 23 after being alerted by the jail.
"However, when ICE-ERO officers arrived at the agreed upon time, they were informed by jail officials that he had been released a couple of hours before. No explanation has been given for this to ICE-ERO Newark despite repeated attempts to reach the warden," Dabul said.
"However, ICE-ERO Newark wishes to state for the record that we have always worked well with Cumberland County Jail prior to the NJ AG Directive being implemented.”
Grewal on Friday suggested that ICE simply wasn't doing its job when suspected immigration violators are released from jails before ICE can detain them. A spokesman for the office reiterated that statement on Tuesday.
“As the attorney general has made clear again and again, the Immigrant Trust Directive allows county jails to honor ICE detainers involving violent and serious criminals, including child sex abusers, so long as ICE takes custody of the inmate within a reasonable amount of time," the spokesman said.
Trejo-Dominguez was arrested Aug. 12 by Vineland police. He was charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child, and criminal restraint.
A Superior Court judge on Aug. 21 ordered that Dominguez-Trejo be released with conditions to await his eventual trial.
County officials said that the jail continued to hold Dominguez-Trejo on Aug. 21 because they found an arrest warrant for him from Vineland for failure to appear in Municipal Court for a simple assault charge.
On Aug. 23, a judge in Vineland ordered that he be release on his own recognizance on that warrant.
"At some point after Inmate Dominguez-Trejo was released, a copy of the ICE detainer was received and placed in Inmate Dominguez-Trejo closed custody file," Cumberland County officials said Monday. "The ICE Detainer notice of action generated on 08/14/2019 had no notation on the document that specified the date when the Ice Detainer was faxed, hand delivered or mailed. Also note: the detainer also showed that the Certificate of Service section did not include the location the detainer was served, date of service or the serving officer’s signature."
County officials did not immediately respond to a request Tuesday evening asking for them to reply to ICE's latest statement.
Last year, ICE attacked Middlesex County jail officials for releasing a sex offender who also was wanted on immigration violations. But a review of the case revealed that the jail had held the man for two years awaiting trial and then gave ICE a 24-hour notice before the man was to be released after being sentenced to time served. ICE never sent agents to pick him up.
Grewal has said repeatedly since rolling out the directive nearly a year ago, and since it went into effect in March, that the rules offer no sanctuary for criminals in New Jersey.
At the Friday news conference last Friday, Grewal said of the balance between New Jersey law enforcement and ICE: “Our job here is to enforce our state’s criminal laws. Their job is to enforce federal immigration laws. They should do their jobs; we’ll do our jobs.”
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