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Case dismissed; feds hold man

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By David Giuliani

Gilberto Reyes, who stayed in the local jail for 15 months because of a drug distribution charge, has been released. And the district attorney has dismissed the case against him.

But that doesn’t mean Reyes is a free man.

The Dominican Republic native was quickly transferred to a federal holding facility in El Paso. That’s because his visa had lapsed while he was in the local lockup.

In February, a district judge declared a mistrial in Reyes’ case because of a hung jury. District Attorney Richard Flores said afterward that he planned to retry Reyes.

Flores said he met with federal immigration officials last week and that they had assured him that they were proceeding with an effort to deport Reyes.

“I could have easily played games and waited for ICE (federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to proceed with their deportation hearing and wait until the deportation and then dismissed, saying Reyes is no longer in the country,” Flores said in an e-mail. “I don’t want to play these games.”

He said that once he found out the federal government was planning deportation, the public interest had been served because Reyes could no longer distribute drugs.

Reyes’ immigration attorney, Rebecca Shreve, said she didn’t want to speak specifically about her client’s case until he gave clearance. But she said it’s not unusual for immigrants to be held in U.S. jails for long times because of federal immigration holds.

“There are many constitutional issues related to immigrants being jailed for long periods of time,” she said, adding that immigrants get punished for fighting their charges. “I’ve seen this so many times.”

Flores speculated that Reyes’ attorney may argue that he was never found guilty of drug distribution and as such, deserves to keep his immigration status.

“The only reason that his visa expired was that he was in state custody,” the district attorney said.

Reyes was arrested for distributing drugs in December 2007, and his trial has been scheduled for last September. But the judge, Eugenio Mathis, had a two-week trial in another county, so he delayed Reyes’ day in court until late February.

During an interview at the jail last fall, Reyes said it appeared as if the constitutional right to a speedy trial didn’t apply to him. Reyes, who came to the United States as a professional baseball player a quarter century ago, became quite popular at the jail, signing baseball cards and receiving visitors upset about his long stay behind bars.

On Dec. 22, 2007, Reyes rolled over a truck north of Las Vegas on Interstate 25. He and a woman passenger were taken to the local hospital.

Afterward, state police said they found 425 packages of marijuana in the truck, amounting to more than 400 pounds.

Reyes testified at trial that he hadn’t known about the drugs, saying he was transporting furniture for someone else. His then-attorney, Ben Mondragon, argued that Reyes didn’t act like a guilty man, noting that he had had a number of chances to flee.

The state contended that Reyes was traveling on a well-known drug corridor and that most suspects claim ignorance of drugs in their cars.

In an e-mail this week, Flores said he takes drug trafficking seriously.

“There are many families in our community who have been affected by drug abuse. It is not just the drug user who is affected. Parents, children, friends and co-workers all suffer at the merciless hands of illegal drugs,” Flores said.