ICE error led to Portland sex assault suspect's release, sheriff says

Top Stories: 11 p.m. 7-31-17

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A man accused of violently attacking two women on July 24 was released by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office one week prior to the attacks, according to a letter from Sheriff Mike Reese.

The suspect, 31-year-old Sergio Martinez, had just served 31 days in jail and had been held as long as the law allowed, Reese said. Martinez was released from the Multnomah County Jail on July 17.

One week later, he was arrested for violent attacks against two different women in Portland. The first victim was a 65-year-old woman sexually assaulted in her Northeast Portland home. The second victim was an unidentified woman attacked in a Northeast Portland parking garage on the same day.

BACKGROUND: Assault suspect captured after chase through NE Portland neighborhood

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said last week they had lodged an immigration detainer against Martinez in December 2016, asking authorities to notify them before releasing him so ICE could take him into custody. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the detainer was requested. But Martinez was released into the community and authorities did not notify ICE.

Reese said in a statement Monday that the sheriff's office couldn't hold Martinez any longer because ICE processed a civil detainer and not a criminal warrant signed by a judge. The sheriff's office followed state statute and federal case law in handling the suspect, Reese said, but had to release him "consistent with the orders of the court."

RELATED: ICE not alerted when sex assault suspect released from jail, official says

No federal or state criminal warrants were present at the time of Martinez's release, according to Reese.

"Prior to his release, [ICE] had not sent a criminal warrant, signed by a judge, allowing MCSO to hold the defendant in jail," Reese wrote. "Instead, they processed a civil detainer, which they know cannot be legally used in Oregon...Federal and state law prohibit Oregon sheriffs' offices from holding anyone based solely on an immigration detainer."

RELATED: Commissioners vote to make Multnomah County a sanctuary county

In December 2016, commissioners unanimously voted to make Multnomah County a sanctuary county for undocumented immigrants and refugees, limiting what the sheriff's office can do in relation to immigration enforcement.

Reese wrote another letter to the community earlier this year, saying, "the sheriff's office does not hold people in county jails on ICE detainers or conduct any immigration enforcement actions."

RELATED: Multnomah Co. leaders address reports of increased ICE activity at courthouse

Court records show Martinez has been deported and returned to the United States 20 different times. Reese said Martinez has a lengthy criminal history, having been booked into Multnomah County Jail nine times since 2008.

In connection with last week's attacks, Martinez is charged with first-degree sex abuse, sodomy, burglary, robbery and kidnapping, and second-degree assault. He is being held on $2 million bail.

The full statement from Sheriff Reese can be read below:

Last week I learned of a criminal act which victimized a member of our community and left all of us feeling distressed and heartbroken. All of our thoughts and prayers must be with her at this difficult time.

This terrible incident is concerning for everyone. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) members followed state statute and federal case law. We managed the defendant through criminal procedure. We held the defendant until he could not be legally held any longer. We used the full scope of authority at our disposal.

Prior to his release, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had not sent a criminal warrant, signed by a judge, allowing MCSO to hold the defendant in jail. Instead, they processed a civil detainer, which they know cannot be legally used in Oregon.

This defendant has a lengthy criminal history. He has been booked into Multnomah County Jail on nine separate occasions since 2008. Most recently, he was released from Multnomah County on July 17, 2017, after serving 31 days in custody. 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.

MCSO has no authority in deportation or issues surrounding illegal reentry into the United States. MCSO holds in custody anyone who has been alleged to have committed a criminal act, or for whom a criminal warrant has been issued, until all charges have been properly adjudicated. MCSO does not hold anyone in custody for civil matters, as per federal and state law.

Federal authorities indicate the defendant in this case is not legally present in the United States and has been deported on numerous occasions. The defendant has been removed from the Country, and has returned to commit additional crimes. Given this defendant's repeated deportations following criminal convictions in the United States, it would help our community to understand how he was held accountable by federal authorities for multiple, illegal reentries.

Local public safety entities, including MCSO, have previously met with the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, and our local ICE officials, to discuss the legal need for a criminal warrant to hold defendants in a situation such as this. Federal and state law prohibit Oregon Sheriffs' Offices from holding anyone based solely on an immigration detainer.

ICE officials have the ability to ask for a criminal warrant, signed by a federal judge, to keep defendants in custody. If this were to happen, Sheriffs in Oregon would cooperate with the federal criminal warrant until the charges were properly adjudicated. No such warrant was placed on this defendant prior to his release.

 


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