Trial date set for Velazques
By: ELIZABETH WEST
On Thursday, illegal immigrant Arturo Velazques appeared before Judge Gary Ortego for his arraignment.
The 31-year-old, who has already been deported twice, was arrested in late September after being involved in a fatal crash on La. Highway 13 on September 18, 2016. The accident claimed the life of 31-year-old Dustin Vidrine of Ville Platte.
Upon his arrest, Velazques, who is employed by a local farmer, was booked in the Evangeline Parish jail and charged with vehicular homicide, driving left of center, and no seat belt. When the State received the crime lab report from the blood sample submitted by Velazques after the wreck, they learned that his blood alcohol level was .20, which is .12 over the legal limit.
During Velazques’s arraignment, his probing was set for February 23, 2017 and his trial was set for March 6, 2017. This case will be heard in the Division B courtroom by Judge Chuck West.
The State, which is being represented by Assistant District Attorney Nicole Gil, has also decided to file a motion to reconsider increasing Velazques’s bond or to have him held without bond until his trial.
This motion comes after Judge Ortego denied the State’s request to hold Velazques without bond or to increase his bond on October 11, 2016. During the October hearing, Judge Ortego also denied attorney Jonathan Vidrine’s request on behalf of the defendant to lower his bond, which was originally set at $100,000.
The State filed their first motion after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent an immigration detainer to the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office. An immigration detainer is an official request from ICE to another law enforcement agency asking that ICE be notified prior to the release of an individual.
According to court transcripts, during the October hearing, District Attorney Investigator Marcus Aucoin said that he was contacted by an ICE officer who told him that if Velazques was released then ICE would deport him.
Aucoin said, “No matter how he (Velazques) was released, if he made bond, if he served his time, if he was found not guilty, or whatever it was, immigration would pick him up on the detainer that they have in place now and they would take him into custody and he would possibly be prosecuted on a third re-entry. But, he would definitely be deported again.”
In the State’s closing argument at the hearing, Gil stated, “What the State fears in this matter is that he (Velazques) will be released and immigration will take custody of him, and they (ICE) will release him and this parish will never know. He will flee to Mexico and be protected from prosecution and being punished for the crime that he has committed.”
In Vidrine’s closing, the defense attorney argued that his client would remain in the parish if he posted bond.
Vidrine said, “Your Honor, he’s crossed the boarder to leave Mexico to come to the United States where he could provide a much, much better living for his family. He has no criminal record except for those illegal crossings, and he has certainly no record of fleeing the jurisdiction once charges have been filed against him.”
By the end of the hearing, Judge Ortego ruled that the bond was to remain the same.
The State’s motion to reconsider will now be heard by Judge West on November 17, 2016.