An Oregon judge is being investigated for allegedly helping an illegal immigrant evade Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in January, by letting the DWI suspect slip out through her own private entrance.
The Jan. 27 incident could land Judge Monica Herranz in serious trouble if she is shown to have helped Diddier Pacheco, 22, escape her Multnomah County courtroom as federal agents waited outside to deport him.
“This individual was allowed to leave that courtroom through a doorway that is not a public doorway, and which ultimately led to his ability to leave the courthouse undetected by ICE,” said U.S. Attorney Billy Williams.
“I found my client, told him that I’d seen ICE agents outside, that I had no way to know if they were there for him or not, but it was possible.”
Herranz is now under internal investigation by the Multnomah County Court Administration. She is cooperating with the probe, which is expected to be completed within a week.
The options for how Pacheco exited Herranz’ courtroom are limited, as there are only three doors. One is used by the Sheriff’s Department to bring inmates in and out. Another is used by the public and the last for the judge and courtroom staff to get back to their offices. It also leads to a staircase which goes to a first floor exit.
Pacheco’s attorney John Schlosser says he doesn’t know how his client left the courtroom. But he acknowledged both knew there were ICE agents inside the courthouse who might be there to arrest Pacheco. He had passed several agents on his way into the courtroom.
“I found my client, told him that I’d seen ICE agents outside, that I had no way to know if they were there for him or not, but it was possible,” said Schlosser.
Federal law makes it a crime to “conceal, harbor or shield from detection” illegal immigrants. The U.S. Attorney in Portland decided not to prosecute after ICE officials told him they were opposed to an investigation of the judge. Instead, Williams met with most of the judges in the county and made it clear similar actions in the future would not be tolerated.
Herranz, a board member of the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association, is still working in the Multnomah County courts, but she could face internal discipline once the investigation is finished.
“I don’t want anything that in the eyes of the public undermines the integrity and the neutrality of the justice system being done,” said Presiding Judge Nan Waller.
Lars Larson, a nationally syndicated conservative talk show host based in Portland thinks Herranz should be finished on the bench and even lose her license to practice law.
“I think the judge broke the law,” said Larson, “I think as a lawyer, her ticket should probably be punched. I think she helped a criminal escape.”
Herranz declined a request by Fox News for a comment. Pacheco was caught by ICE agents outside the same courthouse two weeks later following another hearing. He’s been taken to an ICE detention facility in New Mexico where he’s awaiting deportation.