SALEM, Ore. – A Mexican man who was deported from the United States more than a dozen times was sentenced Friday in Oregon to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse and other charges in separate attacks on two women.
Sergio Jose Martinez told victims’ relatives he would see them in hell after the sentence was pronounced Friday in a Portland courtroom.
Just a day earlier, another man who had also been deported multiple times for being in America illegally, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, was found not guilty by a jury in San Francisco in the shooting death of a woman. That case that touched off a national immigration debate.
“Unfortunately, after Zarate got acquitted, Martinez is now the boogeyman of the face of immigration,” Martinez’s lawyer, Jonathan Sarre, said in a phone interview.
A week before the attacks, Martinez was freed from jail in Portland where he had served time for interfering with police and providing a false birth date. He was let go despite a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to hold him so the agency could take him into custody.
Oregon became America’s first sanctuary state when it adopted a law in 1987 preventing law enforcement from detaining people who are in the United States illegally but have not broken other laws.
Sheriff Michael Reese said he could not legally continue to hold Martinez on the federal agency’s “immigration detainer” request. Reese said that if ICE had sent a criminal detention warrant signed by a judge, he could have been held longer.
“He was released consistent with the orders of the court. No federal or state criminal warrants were present at the time he left our custody,” the sheriff said at the time while noting that Martinez had been deported before “and has returned to commit additional crimes.”
“It would help our community to understand how he was held accountable by federal authorities for multiple, illegal re-entries” Reese said.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions highlighted Martinez’s case when he visited Oregon in September and urged local jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents to reconsider those policies.
Martinez attacked the two women in Portland on July 24, one in her home and the other in a parking garage.
Two relatives of one of the victims and one of the victims herself spoke during the sentencing phase Friday, in which Martinez often grinned. A brother of one victim told Martinez, “Sergio, no sentencing is enough . I rather you rot in hell,” KOIN-TV news reported.
Deputy District Attorney Amity Girt, the prosecutor on the case, said “we had some very powerful victim impact statements that said it all.”
“It was really breathtaking to hear the far-reaching consequences of violent crime, the emotional injury,” Girt said in a telephone interview.
Under the agreement that spared Martinez a possibly longer sentence if he had been found guilty at trial, he pleaded guilty to 10 counts, including first-degree burglary, sodomy, sex abuse, kidnapping, robbery, and second-degree assault, Girt said.
When Martinez left the courtroom, he told the victims’ relatives: “See all you guys in hell,” KOIN reported.
Sarre said Martinez, 31, “suffers from some mental illnesses; often such people may do inappropriate things in these situations.”
However, a doctor had declared Martinez competent to stand trial, Sarre said.
Martinez is not eligible for early release due to a 1994 ballot initiative passed by Oregon voters that establishes mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, Sarre said.
After 35 years, ICE would be able to take him into custody if they monitor his release date, the attorney said.
By then, Martinez will be 66 years old.
ICE had no immediate comment on the case.